It is a simple request with an obvious solution.
The city of Malden has a large, diverse and growing population which includes a considerable percentage of young people who yearn to learn, play and compete in a variety of athletic endeavors. Whether it is on an instructional basis, or in competition against other youth, they want to be on the field. Their parents and caregivers want them to be on the field as well.
But at present, there is simply not enough accessible field space in the Malden community to accommodate their needs and desires adequately. Whether they are at the youth sports level to the high school teams, their opportunities to participate in physical activity are diminished and reduced for this very reason.
Consider this. Since the concept of rehabilitating Roosevelt Park on Salem Street by completely renovating the entire parcel and installing a state-of-the-art synthetic turf playing surface was first suggested – way back in 2010 – an entire generation of young people, from preschool to high school graduation, 13 years total, has been denied those opportunities. Due to delays and challenges to the Roosevelt Park Rehabilitation Project, which was reintroduced in 2018, this year’s high school graduating class of 2023 has gone their entire four years of secondary education and more without access to the park with its full use.
These delays have come to a project which has been delayed due to a myriad of regulatory challenges and allegations which have all been denied and resolved, at no small cost to legal billing and calendar time. The hoops through which city officials have been forced to navigate have been innumerable at times, but they have jumped through all of them.
Late last month, through the continued diligence of the staff of Mayor Gary Christenson and the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD), a new approach was unveiled which would fund the remaining cost gap to complete the Roosevelt Park Rehabilitation Project while at the same time addressing the often-cited greatest desire of the project’s opponents: removing a full three feet of lead-contaminated soil at the park before installing the components of the planned new park.
Still again, the opponents have come back with other perceptions and reasons they believe the original, City Council-approved project is anathema to their stance.
At a City Council Finance Committee meeting held Tuesday night, several officials from the OSPCD, the Malden Public Schools and the Malden Recreation Department gave a detailed presentation and – as requested – numbers breakdown of field space hours that are allocated now, versus what is actually needed for Malden’s children. Some of the most pressing and desired needs for field space hours and the type of usage for Malden’s children could be met and provided with the installation of the planned new Roosevelt Park synthetic turf surface. Topping the list would be more time and space for Malden High School and Middle School teams and sports like boys and girls soccer, girls and boys field hockey, boys and girls lacrosse and girls softball. These athletic and other activities that could be accommodated with a new Roosevelt Park would enable many more children and potential student-athletes to participate and enhance their physical and mental health.
The need for more field space and hours of usage are not just for the present, but also for the future. At Tuesday’s meeting it was expressed that the Malden Public Schools and Recreation Department have plans for new afterschool sports and athletic programs, which could be implemented with more field time at Roosevelt Park. Parents across the city have often expressed their desire for more programming dedicated to their children’s afterschool time.
School officials noted that at present the Malden Public Schools directly fails to attract a number of students and has them look elsewhere due to a lack of accommodating sports programs, due to a dearth of field space and usage hours.
A lot of those children presently attending the Salemwood K-8 school would be able to maximize their hours of outdoor activity with a newly renovated, safe and welcoming Roosevelt Park. More students from the Salemwood School at this time participate in Middle School Sports Programs than in any other school in the community. School officials say this would increase with the completion of the Roosevelt Park Project.
For the past five years, due to delays and challenges, these children have been shut out from participating. Largely, since this project was first proposed and then shelved 13 years ago, they have missed out – from their preschool years to their imminent Class of 2023 graduation.
In the four years since this project has been officially approved by the City Council, every youth sports organization in the Malden community – Malden Youth Soccer, Pop Warner Football, Malden Youth Lacrosse, Malden Girls Softball, Malden Youth Baseball, Malden Babe Ruth Baseball and others – have all strongly endorsed the Roosevelt Park Rehabilitation Project and the state-of-the-art synthetic surface that is planned. They have all had representation at nearly every public meeting and public opportunity to express views on the Roosevelt Park Project. That encompasses thousands of Malden residents ranging in age from three to 21 – and all of the coaches, parents and other family members.
Within the past year, many letters were written, signed and submitted to city officials from a wide range of Malden residents – all in favor of the Roosevelt Park Project. One group, Malden CARES4Kids, collected over 2,000 letters in the past 12 months in support of the improvements planned for Roosevelt Park. Everyone from two well-respected Malden Mayors – present and past – to dozens of present and former City Councillors, two highly regarded Malden Redevelopment Authority Executive Directors, present and past, and their staffs, as well as dozens of other professional city staffers have all backed and endorsed this project from its earliest inception in 2010. They still do. They were not and are not wrong.
The Director of Wellness, Athletics and Physical Education for the Malden Public Schools, who is directly responsible for ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all 6,500-plus public-school students in this city, says the Malden community needs the Roosevelt Park project completed. He has supported and endorsed this project since its inception.
Despite claims made to the contrary by opponents of the Roosevelt Park Rehabilitation Project, the overwhelming support of the greater part of the Malden community, which wants kids on the field and wants the students of the Salemwood School to have a safe, welcoming place to play and compete right outside their school’s doors, is readily apparent.
The time is now to truly stand up for Malden’s kids and complete this project. They deserve nothing less.