Members of the Birmingham City Council called on the city’s Park and Recreation Board Tuesday to halt plans to close 12 recreation centers until a “more equitable” plan can be created.
The centers in question — Brownsville Heights, Harriman, Harrison, Henry Crumpton, Hooper City, Howze-Sanford, Inglenook, North Birmingham, Roosevelt City, Sandusky/Hudson, Wiggins and Willow Wood — would have to close as a result of employee furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Park and Recreation Director Shonae’ Eddins-Bennett told the council on Sept. 10.
“To have someone housed there daily, we don’t have the staff,” she said.
The proposal was not well-received by members of the council, many of whom felt the closures were unevenly distributed throughout the city’s districts — adding specifically that much of the city’s north, west, east and southwest areas would be left without recreation centers.
“Many of these seem to be clustered in one area,” Council President William Parker said last week, growing more and more distraught. “I believe in equity, and this ain’t equity… This is horrible!”
The proposed closures still have to be approved by the park board. During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Parker called on the board to withdraw the item “in good faith” and to come up with a new plan that will keep those centers open, even if only on a rolling schedule.
“Rec centers are the bedrock of our communities,” he said.
Council President Wardine Alexander said she was “deeply saddened” that four of the five recreation centers in her district were on the chopping block. District 9 Councilor John Hilliard added that he was “quite alarmed” by the proposal and called for the park board “to be creative in spreading current employees that are (not furloughed) out.”
The next Park and Recreation Board meeting is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 9 a.m.