ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A number of residents and community leaders in Albany said they’re frustrated by the lack of youth sports opportunities.
They said those activities will keep kids away from crime and gangs.
In a recent criminal justice forum, residents voiced their concerns, saying that because of the lack of recreational programs provided by the city, kids are turning to violence.
“That’s where the conflict comes in. We need the city to step up again,” said Bert Bacon, an Albany community leader.
Joel Holmes, the director for the City of Albany’s Recreation and Parks, said seven baseball parks are currently open, and out of five gyms, three are open every day for after-school programs and recreational play.
“Activities number may be up and down, they fluctuate from time to time, but all the parks that we’ve used since I been here the last four years are still being used. The only exception would be at International right now,” said Holmes.
Turner and Carver gymnasiums are temporarily closed because of storm damage. But some residents said just having them re-opened is not enough.
They want the city to get more involved in providing city leagues instead of leagues run solely by volunteers.
“They said they hired new people to come on board and make a new system where they will be directed from the park point-of-view instead of volunteer coaches,” said Kenneth Florence, a community leader.
“I think we kind of forget how much our city cares about us when you look at what individuals are having to do to fill in the holes,” said Bacon.
Bacon believes people may be even more concerned after the city’s recreational football league stopped last year, but city officials are working to bring that back and more.
“Through recreation, we just started a youth basketball league this year. We started it last week,” said Holmes.
Residents are hoping this league and the return of city league football, will lessen teen crimes and create more players like Trent Brown, Deion Branch, Ricardo Lockette and more.
“Our Superbowl champions that have come out of Albany, Georgia all played city league football,” said Bacon.
Holmes said they’re always open to hear the community’s concerns in order to serve kids in this community. He said within the last six months, they’ve added several new employees to the City of Albany Recreation and Parks to restructure the department.
The new staff is working now to create new programs through the gyms and through athletics to help give kids an alternative to crime.
The director said they’re working with Albany Police Department and community leaders to start more programs to combat crime committed by children.
“But also we’re working, right now we’re in talks with community leaders on how we can have them involved to work with the kids for after school programs and special one-day programs to kind of show kids another way,” said Holmes.
Holmes said that within the next six months, the community should see many new programs offered by the city.