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Community activist assist with renovating Richmond park to combat violence

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 11:25 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - At one time, the tennis courts at the Broad Rock Sports Complex, like many of its facilities, were great but have since served their time. Now, for the past eight months, it’s community activists like Lorenzo Trent who are determined to give the park a major glow-up.

“The Broad Rock Tennis Association, which is over 40 years strong, has decided that our park had been so neglected that it was time we started a movement to make this thing move along a little faster,” Trent said.

Trent is beginning this revitalization, starting with a newly constructed tennis court. In recent days, the court has been painted and paved.

“We got coloring coming, fencing coming, and along with that, we’ve got a couple more phases,” Trent said.

In addition to donations, with the help of connections within the city like 9th District Councilman Mike Jones and Chris Frelke the city’s Director of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities, Trent says over the years many of the facilities have become rusted cracked, and in some places overgrown.

The City of Richmond Parks and Recreation says in part that in 2018, Councilmember Jones was able to allocate additional capital dollars for Broad Rock Sportsplex. The department began a community engagement period and designed the master plan for the park, which was approved by the Urban Design Committee in September 2019, a plan that was shared with Trent.

“We’re starting with the completion of this tennis court, resurfacing of the other tennis court, and the relocating of the basketball courts, which will now have four goals as supposed to two,” Trent said.

But Trent says the goal goes far beyond just giving the park’s tennis association a brand new place to improve their game. He wants the park to be a place where the city’s youth can escape to.

“It’s the violence, mainly,” Trent said. “Number one, we’re losing our youth to things they think is just a game. You can come outside in the streets, but we can show you a different way out here in the streets, that’s why we started this movement.”

In recent years, Richmond Public Schools has seen dozens of students lost to gun violence and many more injured.

Most recently, an 18-year-old was killed in a shooting early Sunday morning on May 24 in the 2100 block of Fairfield Avenue, according to police. RPS confirmed that the 18-year-old was a student at Armstrong High School.

“We have to make this park a place where everyone can come and not feel afraid. Kids, grown folks, everyone,” said Trent’s business partner, Regie Ford.

Ford said he believes that rehabilitating the mind of the city’s youth begins with providing them with a place that they can be proud to go to, something he says the city is lacking in many of its parks.

“I went to Belmont Park in Henrico and I thought it was a country club that’s how nice it looked, but it was public,” Ford said. “Your neighborhood is a product of where you go and what you see, so if you see a dilapidated, horrible, torn-up park, what will that do to the mindset of the people who come here?”

Their ultimate goal is to build an aquatic center in the park, which Trent says would be a first for the city.

“The city can tell you that we have plenty of outside recreational centers, but we do not have an aquatic center,” Trent said. “Richmond has been my living space for 41 years and for us being the capital it seems that we are being followers instead of leaders; Everybody builds up and around and our city products are going to the counties because of their developments, by why can’t the megs-situation in Richmond that leads to more?”

But a facility of its kind comes with a big price tag. Trent says it will take an estimated $20 million to construct an aquatic center for the community. That’s why he’s looking for support from anyone who wants to help make the park better.

“The city said they don’t have enough money, so we have to help the city with grants and bringing people together,” Ford said. “We are going to turn this around. This is going to be the Mecca of Richmond.”

In addition, the pair say they have plans to introduce other facilities like a library with wifi capability.

“We want to make sure that every young man or young woman can develop every part of themselves at this park,” Ford said. We are going to spread out, throughout the southside. The southside is not going to be the red-headed stepchild as it’s always been in Richmond.

Trent says the final phase of this park-wide revitalization project is to secure all of the funding that is possible to get the aquatic center built.

Richmond Parks and Recreation says further renovations of the park will be determined through the Capital Improvement Budget. The department will continue to request capital improvement dollars for this park to complete future phases of this plan.

If you would like more information regarding projects that the department is working on, you are asked to reach out to the city parks and recreation public information manager Tamara E. Jenkins at (804) 646-1087 or email her office at tamara.jenkins@richmondgov.com.

“It’s done regardless, regardless, ain’t no stopping here,” Trent said.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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