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Looking for a place to play, playground options in East Cleveland are few and far between

Posted at 8:47 PM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 20:57:50-05

Spring is around the corner and kids are counting down until they can head back outside to play.

But in East Cleveland right now, the playground options are few and far between.

One group of kids found that out first hand last month. Officers were originally called about a break-in and found the boys were just looking for somewhere to play - and the officers ended up playing a game of pick-up basketball with the group.

And now, the video of the officers playing with the kids has gone viral.

"They really don't have anywhere else to go. I thought about all the parks we have, which is one. All the playgrounds we have, which is none," said Officer David Duncan.

But this wasn't always the case in East Cleveland. City native and councilman Ernest Smith recalls being able to walk across from his home on Hayden Ave. to the area playground.

"Jump on the monkey bars, the swings and football," Smith said.

Today that playground is a vacant lot.

Nearby, a police order - "no playground" written on a brick wall where the playground used to be - is deterring kids from improvising.

"Now with no park there, there's nothing but negative one can do," Smith said.

But Smith is trying to change that, starting with Forest Hill Park, the only park the city has.

"Absolutely, paint would be beautiful, which we are in talks with various organizations that would come and do paint and donate their time. New nets for the basketball court would be great."

But Smith also pointed out that for many kids, like the ones in the viral video playing a pick-up game with officers, making it to Forest Hill sometimes isn't an option.

"For kids that age to have to walk up here is far, where as it used to be a little mini park right down that way."

To fill the void, Smith also hosts youth activity nights through his community organization. But he says this can't be done without the public's help.

"We as a people can't wait on others to do it for us. We have to do it ourselves."

Smith says although the former playgrounds are now vacant, he hopes to find resourceful mentors who can use the open area for fun activities for the kids - like Officer Duncan did.