Traffic, crossing pose challenge for new community center in Fort Washington -- Gazette.Net


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Fort Washington residents welcomed plans for a new technology and recreation complex set to open in June, but questioned whether youths would be able to get to the center safely.

“I’m very concerned about traffic,” said Charles French of Fort Washington, adding that the road on which the complex is located, Bock Road, could become more dangerous during rush hour or bad weather. “In the past 10 years, I’ve seen that area go from hardly any traffic to extreme traffic.”

About 125 people attended a meeting Saturday in Oxon Hill, hosted by Prince George’s County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington to discuss community issues, but much of the discussion focused on the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex, a 37,000-square-foot community center being built in Fort Washington.

Residents said there aren’t many crosswalks on Bock Road, a two-lane road with one lane in each direction, making it difficult for youths to get to the facility, and said traffic probably will increase once the complex opens.

“How will our children cross?” asked Pamela Williams of Fort Washington, pointing out that the closest crossing light for Bock Road is almost a mile from the complex.

Solving the traffic concern is important, as the center will provide a recreational outlet for the community’s children, residents said. The $13 million center will include two high school-sized gymnasiums, a rock climbing wall, a computer lab and a recording studio.

Residents have pushed the county for a large community center for the south county region for 15 years, said Fort Washington resident Olatunde Babayale, former president of the Tantallon South Civic Association in Fort Washington.

The south county community lacked a recreational facility that would cater to all ages, similar to the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex in Largo, said Zeno W. St. Cyr II of Fort Washington. The smaller community centers were not meeting this need, he said.

County officials told residents at the meeting that future road improvements could mitigate concerns over crossing Bock Road.

The complex’s location was chosen because of its proximity to the Tucker Road Community Center and Henson Creek Trail, which will go under the new Bock Road bridge, said Don Herring, senior planner for the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Department, a division of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The bridge is under construction, according to the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, and Herring said it might be possible to cross to the complex using the trail.

Patterson said he will meet with the Department of Public Works to see what can be done to address the issue.

“We’re definitely looking for things like this complex that can keep children active and involved so they stay away from problems like drugs,” said Valencia Campbell of Fort Washington, who is president of the Prince George’s County Drug Policy Coalition in Suitland.

lrobbins@gazette.net