CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Concerned citizens of Lakewood are working with the city to increase safety after last week’s shooting at Madison Park. An 18-year-old was shot in the chest and two other teens have been arrested. But this was the second recent shooting at the same park.
The city has since removed the basketball hoops, and some say that’s leaving kids with few alternatives during an already difficult time.
There are a few other places for kids to play ball in Lakewood, including Lakewood and Wagar parks and the YMCA, but some parents are concerned about the cost, as well as the distance that children would have to travel, crossing roads with heavy traffic.
Casey Davis of the Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee says she’s worked with others for years to get a full basketball court installed at a Lakewood park, and she wants the back boards back up at Madison Park as soon as possible.
Lakewood’s mayor has explained that safety is the priority and new evidence in the shooting has come to light and contributed to the city’s decision to remove the hoops. But some parents don’t by it.
“Basketball is not the reason for gun violence. We’re concerned basketball is being labeled,” said Davis. “Little kids came to play not knowing the hoops were going to be down. They see kids playing soccer, but they can’t play basketball.”
Davis says without the backboards some young people could find more trouble.
“We’re not just talking about kids, but young adults too,” she said. “Some kids this is what they do every day. This is all they have. It’s unfair. I feel like there’s a segment of people being overlooked.”
The Lakewood Family YMCA could provide an alternative place to play basketball. Even providing a place to lift weights and swim. But you must have a membership to use their facilities. Scholarships are available for financial help.
Virgil Wahome is the Associate Executive Director and says the facility is safe.
“It’s more setting up a community aspect of it, and so when they come here we get to know everyone that walks in the door,” Wahome said.
Parent and coach Randy Brown said he hopes the city and others will learn from the lessons that basketball teaches: rely on teamwork and cut through the divisiveness.
“We’re going to plan basketball-related events, contests,” he said. “Those things are already in the works. Despite not having backboards we’re planning these events.”
Parent and educator Mary Brown says that she’s thankful for the continued presence of Lakewood Police who patrol the park, but she would like to see officers walk the park or ride bikes and get to know who’s frequenting the area.
“Then the police would have communication with the kids that are here —my son as well,” she said. “Perhaps [they could] diffuse situations before they escalate. You can’t always predict these things. But, certainly relationship building and reinforcing that someone’s watching and paying attention to what’s going on is important.”
The Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee plans to meet at Madison Park near the basketball court every Saturday at 4:00 p.m. They plan to perform basketball drills this coming Saturday at the park. Putting their plan of action to work to bring the game back to the courts.