Erie Councilman Michael Keys Urges Rodger Young Park Renewal

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Now is the time to invest in Rodger Young Park. When I first started pushing to improve Rodger Young Park, the landscape was completely different than it is today. Substantial investment in sports parks and recreation facilities is underway to the south and east of the city. Wesleyville is committed to revitalizing its portion of the Buffalo Road corridor. The Eastside Grassroots Coalition has begun revitalizing the City of Erie portion of the Buffalo Road Corridor, and new housing is planned for an adjacent neighborhood.

Crime and violence are on the rise. The city, nonprofits, law enforcement, religious organizations, and the community are scrambling to find solutions. No one entity has the solution, but what I do know is that young people need access to quality facilities and safe places to play, train and compete. Many suburban communities are making these types of investments in their communities. Now is the time for the City of Erie to do the same.

Rodger Young Park’s location makes it an ideal place to invest in the city. It is easily accessible from the east on Route 20, from the west from the Bayfront Connector, and from both directions from Route 5. The park as I envision it will be capable of hosting sporting events, workouts and year-round competitions, both indoors and outdoors. The new Rodger Young Park will attract the town of Erie and boost the local economy. I know firsthand how impactful an investment in a neighborhood park can be. I grew up in a neighborhood adjacent to Rodger Young Park and remember when the pool was first built. I did odd jobs to raise the 50 cents or dollars that was charged for admission. I visited the pool several times a week. I have very fond memories of that time, enjoying the sun and playing by the pool with my friends.

My older brother Perry was part of the first team of lifeguards in the park. I remember how honored this group of lifeguards, mostly people of color, was to be selected to man the towers overlooking the neighborhood’s newest gem. The pool has given the neighborhood, flanked by social housing on two sides, something to be proud of. It gave them hope for the future of a more equitable city. Unfortunately, since my childhood there has been very little investment in this part of town and the area around the park has been in steady decline. We have the opportunity to change that with a long overdue reinvestment in Rodger Young Park.

After:Erie City Council has split a proposal worth more than $2 million to improve Rodger Young Park

Last summer, the world’s best athletes were in Tokyo, Japan for the 2021 Summer Olympics. Thousands of athletes from around the world competed in over 50 different sports. One thing consistent in the many stories of Olympic athletes was the role that access to quality facilities played in their success. Alaskan teenager Lydia Jacoby won gold in the 200m freestyle. She was the first person from her state to win a medal in swimming. She told of the difficulty she had working out with limited access to swimming pools. It has been noted that there is only one Olympic size swimming pool in the entire state of Alaska.

Erie Councilman Michael Keys is shown July 9, 2021 at Rodger Young Park.  Keys has an ambitious multi-million dollar plan to upgrade the park with a track, fitness center and upgrades to the existing pool.

When I was in high school, the city of Erie sent dozens of athletes to the state track meet. Many of them received athletic scholarships and went on to compete at the college level. Currently, the city of Erie does not have any regulation-size competition tracks in the public domain. This includes the Erie School District. As a result, Erie High has had very little success in track and field since its inception and has sent only one athlete to Pennsylvania State Championship competition. This facility could help level the playing field for our local athletes.

The baseball field, presented July 9, 2021 at Rodger Young Park, will be converted into a track and field and soccer field according to a plan by Erie City Councilman Michael Keys.

I explained why now is the time to renovate Rodger Young Park and how the benefits go far beyond the obvious improved health and well-being of our community. As a city councilor, I am concerned with all aspects of city life. I believe this is an investment the city can make that will pay dividends in the quality of life for Erie residents for years to come. This project has the potential to have a huge positive impact on the east side of the city of Erie. The Rodger Young Park update is not limited to the park itself. It’s much bigger than that. The city must invest in the community and the youth to avoid the rise of violence, apathy and despair. The time has come and Rodger Young Park can be part of the solution.

Michael Keys is the Vice President of the Erie City Council.

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