Another Side To Woodlynne Courts

Posted: April 16, 1992

It's spring, and that means that budding Michael Jordans and Larry Birds in Woodlynne can practice their hooks, dribbles and slams at one of the borough's two basketball courts on Fourth Street.

It's spring, and that means that toughs - most of them from outside Woodlynne - can practice their beer-guzzling, swearing and loitering at one of the borough's two basketball courts on Fourth Street.

Those were the equations in years past, but borough officials and residents are now looking for a way to control who can use the courts, for what, and when.

The courts were padlocked temporarily and the basketball rims and nets removed last summer on the recommendation of former Councilwoman Kathleen Waters because of complaints from residents living near the courts.

The neighbors said that noisy, foul-mouthed teenagers were routinely drinking and taking drugs on the properties.

Borough officials said they had always planned to reopen the courts. But the reopening sparked new discussion of how to prevent obnoxious behavior.

"I'm concerned about the courts being opened," said Councilman Richard D'Adamo, the borough's public works director.

"I want to see them open, but our main concern is security. Year after year . . . there's the beer bottles and the drug (crack) vials all over the place," he said.

One Fourth Street resident, who requested anonymity, said that in addition to hearing reports of crack vials being found on the courts, several parents had told her that their children had seen youths with handguns on the property.

Although the courts, in the past, were locked at 10 p.m., teens jumped the gates, D'Adamo said. "The police would then chase them out, but they'd come right back again," he said. "It'd get monotonous."

D'Adamo said that only a small percentage of young people using the courts are from Woodlynne. Last week, after the first court was reopened, he noticed teenagers once again drinking there, he said.

"It's going to be starting all over again," he said, predicting that a feud could develop between residents of the area who want to keep the courts

closed and other residents and town officials who think they should be open.

There is widespread agreement that most of the rowdies are from neighboring towns, such as Camden and Collingswood.

The borough cannot legally restrict the courts to Woodlynne residents,

because they were paid for by the state through its Green Acres program.

And some believe that closing the courts unfairly penalizes everyone. "I don't think all our kids should be punished because of a few drinking," said Mayor J. Drew Coyle. Those who are drinking should be arrested, he said. At least a few Woodlynne youngsters would be miffed if the town closed the courts once more.

Philip Andrews Jr., 15, a Collingswood High School senior from Woodlynne, presented a petition with 275 signatures to the mayor on April 8 asking that both courts be reopened and the rims and nets reinstalled. The next day, hours before the subject was taken up at the Borough Council meeting, one of those courts was reopened.

Coyle then ordered Councilman Harry Duckinfield, who oversees the Department of Recreation, to have all the rims and nets replaced by today and to establish a policy for use of the courts by next Thursday.

That action was prompted when D'Adamo and several residents recalled the reason the courts were closed in the first place.

Coyle suggested that the borough require anyone planning to use the courts to sign in at the municipal building. Councilman Michael Sangarlo recommended that one of the borough's six police officers could check the courts when they are signed out and again after they are vacated.

Some residents at the meeting found those ideas impractical.

"You can't have police hang out there all day," said Bertha Walsh of Evergreen Avenue.

But Coyle said: "It shouldn't be a real chore; if they're out for about an hour, you (police) should have made a couple of passes by those courts."

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