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Moral Obligation Or Old Wounds?

Old roller-hockey rink at community center could be used for adaptive sports.

— The county has “moral and legal obligations” to provide opportunities for people with disabilities, Steve Landsman said last week. The county also has a significant resource in the roller hockey rink at the Potomac Community Center.

But one resident’s comments showed lack of awareness or understanding of the need.

“For special needs kids, you’d be better off to move the furniture out of this room and have an enclosed space … with indoor climate that can be controlled and toys they can play with,” the resident said.

Pam Yerg, area director of Special Olympics MD-Montgomery and coordinator of TOPSoccer adaptive program, was quick to reply.

“We’re not patting people on the head,” Yerg said. “They are training to learn the game of soccer, a real sport.”

“We’re not patting people on the head. They are training to learn the game of soccer, a real sport.” — Pam Yerg

THE DEPARTMENT of Recreation held a meeting at the Potomac Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 15 to elicit feedback on the proposal to adapt the unused rink for soccer and other sports programs for people with disabilities.

“The purpose of tonight was to start the process and to come to the community to get responses and reactions,” said Jeffrey A. Bourne, of the Recreation Department.

Yerg has been looking at the dormant roller hockey rink at the Potomac Community Center for some time. The rink could provide a safe, flat surface for people with disabilities who use assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or prosthetics. It could be used for soccer, kick ball, T-ball, bocce, lacrosse and various other sports, she said.

Some of her players use crutches and walkers and currently “struggle through the ruts and grass and the mud” to be part of soccer activities and games.

“We need a surface to allow people with disabilities who have assistive equipment to play multiple sports,” said Yerg when she originally pitched her idea to county officials. “I’m hoping the community is positive and embracing of the opportunity.”

A DOZEN people showed for the meeting, including neighbors who had lived through the rink’s opening when roller hockey was a popular sport.

“I don’t think you can ignore the history of the whole thing,” said Jim Krzymanski, whose backyard backs onto the rink. “We were completely left out of the process the first time around.”

Neighbors say they were blindsided by the first opening of the rink, and that it was noisy and disruptive. The county limited play at the rink to youth ages after complaints.

“We’ve had several years of relative calm,” said Krzymanski. “Now we’re getting to the point of opening up all those wounds again.”

Get Involved

Montgomery County Department of Recreation seeks public input on “a suggestion to modify the existing Potomac Community Center roller rink in order to provide a smooth, soft surface, accessible sports area,” for use by athletes with disabilities, according to the Recreation Department.

The idea is under consideration after being suggested by the community advisory committee.

Contact Jeffrey A. Bourne at 240-777-6800 or jeffrey.bourne@mo...

During most of the meeting, all neighbors voiced only frustrations and anger with the old rink and fears about opening it again.

But at the end Krzymanski told county officials he has a grandchild with disabilities and appreciated Landsman’s comment about providing opportunities for people with disabilities.

“There could be solutions if we work on this together,” he said.