At Tuesday's Council of Governments meeting at the newly renovated Manatee Civic Center in Palmetto, Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen introduced a plan to make unused school parks and fields available to the public. Commissioner Gallen started describing his, Community Plan for Children by admiting, "I don't have a plan," which certainly triggered a group chuckle. Gallne did, however, have some very good ideas.
He suggested it should be a "joint issue" and the responsibility of all governments to work together to light and unlock some of these basketball courts and other facilities so that teens would have a place to go and engage in positive activities. Some of the leaders from the different groups said they had been looking into doing just that, and the rest of the members agreed to move forward in order to make it happen.
In a phone conversation, Commissioner Gallen said, "I used to be a teacher, and I may be thinking utopian, but when I would leave to go home after teaching, I would see these fields and courts empty and wonder why they couldn't be being used." Gallen thought putting together a program that included supervision from volunteer students and other organizations could create positive development.
Gallen said, "A high schooler may live miles from their school, so when they get off their bus they sometimes walk right by another school. They could volunteer supervision or use the facilities that are right there by their house for recreation. It's going to take some doing, but we could figure it out." He added, "These fields are like parks, which are considered green space. We should use them in that capacity." Gallen said he understands the possibility of some misuse, but believed the good that comes from providing more recreation space and community interaction, far outweighs the risk.
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