Earlier this week, common sense prevailed — barely — in Holly Springs when the Town Council voted 3-2 not to crack down on kids playing in the street. Seems a local resident pushed the issue, complaining that her neighbor kids didn’t get out of her way fast enough when she pulled into her cul de sac.
The issue is two-fold. One is the kids simply playing in the street, be it using the arena end of the cul de sac for Wiffle Ball or using the straight-a-ways for street hockey. Also at issue is the kids leaving their toys in the street and getting them run over; apparently, parents have complained when a soccer ball has been smooshed or a basketball goal run over. The latter issue is especially amusing: Back in the day, if we’d left something in the street and it got flattened, our parents wouldn’t be calling the police — they’d give us a Gibbs-slap for not taking care of our stuff.
As for playing in the street … . Earlier in the year, an analysis done by Oregon State University found that parks and recreation departments across the country are on the decline due to budget shortfalls. Washington state cut 49 percent of its state parks budget, California faced a 21 percent cut in its parks budget … the list went on. Less money, fewer opportunities for our increasingly obese kids to get out and get down to a healthy weight. And last month, a study in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that recreational opportunities at schools nationwide are limited because of concerns over liability issues. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s ever tried to run on the local high school track, throw a Frisbee on a middle school soccer field, or play basketball on a cold winter night in the cozy gym at their neighborhood elementary school. Our kids’ opportunities for exercise are diminishing — and now we’re seriously considering telling them not to go play in the street? They can’t go to the park, they can’t play at the school playground, we’re afraid to let them venture into the local woods — where are they supposed to play?
One other advantage to playing in the street: It encourages the creative play that experts warn is missing from our kids’ lives. Today more than ever, kids are funneled into regimented fitness programs — mostly sports teams where they are told exactly what to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: I’m a huge advocate of team sports and a product of it. Learning at age 10 how to play on a basketball team of four other kids who all want to shoot the ball is vital preparation for surviving in the working world later in life. But kids also need the opportunity to be turned loose in a field — or in the street — to create their own fun.
Holly Springs was right to let its kids keep playing in the streets. But the vote should have been unanimous.