JONESBORO Keith Richards and Wayne Fogel took a break from playing basketball at Lee Street Park Friday to catch their breaths and chat on a park bench.
They were among nearly a dozen people playing basketball at the park under the midday sun. However, the likelihood that such scenes will continue well into the future remains uncertain because of ongoing debate among Jonesboro residents about the park’s future.
“I think it should stay because it keeps a lot of youths off the streets and out of trouble by giving them something to do,” said Fogel, who lives on the outskirts of Jonesboro. “Anytime you have idle hands, they’re going to go out and try to find something to occupy their time and sometimes that can lead to them getting into trouble.”
One of the key issues emerging in the Lee Street Park debate about how best to renovate the park is whether to keep the basketball courts. Some residents want it gone in favor of other amenities, such as an amphitheater, while others want it to stay. The majority of respondents to a city survey on the park’s future said the courts should be eliminated.
Only 19 people responded to the survey, though, and Mayor Joy Day said she wants more input before making a decision.
The basketball players do have a friend in Councilwoman Pat Sebo. She is one of the leading proponents of building an amphitheater at the park, but she said it shouldn’t come at the expense of the basketball courts.
“We could absolutely have both,” said Sebo.
That’s an idea Riverdale resident Keith Miller agrees with. He said he plays basketball there twice a month, and he had his young son, Keith Jr., and daughter, Natalia, with him Friday.
“It’s good for the community and it keeps the children from having nothing to do during the summer,” said Miller.
Fogel said the water fountain at the courts needs to be replaced, though, and the players need better access to the park’s restrooms.
Richards said the people who use the courts do not cause trouble. One of the arguments opponents of the court have made is that the people who use them can be intimidating.
But Richards said they just want to come out and have fun playing basketball.
“You see the young and the old out here and everybody gets along,” said Richards.