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Neighborhoodsby Laura Fay9:15 amAug 16, 20230

Pressed by Pigtown leaders, Rec and Parks agrees to move forward with needle drop kiosk in Carroll Park

The agency’s decision to approve the drop-box comes on the heels of a Baltimore Brew story about the controversy

Above: Used needles and other drug paraphernalia at Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore. (Scott Kashnow)

Baltimore City Recreation and Park finally gave Citizens of Pigtown permission yesterday to install a needle disposal kiosk in Carroll Park.

Permission came hours after The Brew published a story about the community group’s frustration with delays and “stonewalling” by the agency.

“As this time,” BCRP Chief of Staff Jacia Smith wrote to Diante Edwards, president of Citizens of Pigtown, “we are comfortable with moving forward with the placement area identified near the pavilion.”

“We understand the frustration that can arise when attempting to navigate bureaucratic processes, especially when it concerns matters as crucial as public safety,” Smith said, adding:

“While it is disappointing that the approval process did not unfold as smoothly as hoped, we share your aspiration for future collaboration between Pigtown and BCRP on projects that uplift our shared spaces and foster positive change.”

Pigtown residents say Rec and Parks is “stonewalling” a much-needed needle disposal kiosk (7/15/23)

The communication came as a surprise to advocates of the kiosk, who had been trying for nearly a year to reach an agreement with the agency.

“The city just thinks about things for way too long, trying to come up with the perfect solution that probably doesn’t exist,” said Scott Kashnow, treasurer of Friends of Carroll Park, who has been pushing for the kiosk alongside Edwards. “The risks are so minimal to trying something that I’m glad we’re gonna give it a shot.”

Email sent to Diante Edwards, president of Citizens of Pigtown, (with a copy to The Brew) three hours after our story on the controversy was posted.

Email to Diante Edwards, president of Citizens of Pigtown, three hours after The Brew published a story about the kiosk delays.

Back and Forth, Then Silence

The agency has gone back and forth with community advocates over the kiosk’s installation for months.

In spring 2022, Citizens of Pigtown, in conjunction with the women’s center SPARC, was awarded $16,100 in funding to install four sharps kiosks around the southwest Baltimore neighborhood. While three of the proposed locations don’t require city approval, the kiosk planned for city-run Carroll Park did.

Edwards attended multiple meetings with Rec and Parks since October. In April, he said he was informed that the kiosk was a “go.” But until yesterday, there was “radio silence” from the agency.

“We have a whole lot of needles, and no place for them to go”  – Scott Kashnow, Friends of Carroll Park.

Kashnow agreed it should never have taken BCRP this long to address the needle problem in Carroll Park.

“Needle litter is all over the park. There are needles in the grass, needles near the fieldhouse, needles on the benches. It just reinforces to me that we have a whole lot of needles, and no place for them to go.”

He sees the park’s potential as a hub for community activity, and hopes adding a kiosk is a step in the right direction.

“Carroll Park is one of the most fantastic amenities we have in our area. But it has to be maintained properly so people want to use it,” Kashnow said.

The sharps kiosk that Citizens of Pigtown installled on West Ostend Street. (Credit: Diante Edwards)

The sharps kiosk that Citizens of Pigtown hopes to install at Carroll Park would be like this one that the group has already installed on West Ostend Street. (Diante Edwards)

Potential Hang-Ups

The city’s sign-off yesterday was not without the possibility of future snags.

In Edwards’ original plan, Citizens of Pigtown and SPARC were responsible for all maintenance and upkeep of the kiosk. The groups had offered to sign a memorandum of understanding with the city, and SPARC had secured a contractor to remove the needles from the kiosk.

Now it seems that won’t be the case. In her email to Edwards yesterday, Smith wrote that “at the conclusion of installation, the Kiosk will be owned and managed by the City.”

Edwards would like to avoid that, if possible.

“That wasn’t part of our discussions previously with BCRP,” he said yesterday. “We know that we can carry out this program. I’m concerned that, if the city were managing it, there might be a lack of funding or not get the level of attention that it would need to be a successful program.”

“If the ball drops gain, if they ghost us again, we are going to keep pushing”  – Diante Edwards, president of Citizens of Pigtown.

The agency’s chosen location for the kiosk, near the Carroll Park Field House, is also not what officials indicated to Edwards at the April meeting.

At the time, they seemed to prefer a location nearer to the Mount Clare Museum House.

“I think either location probably works out in the end for the benefit of the program,” Edwards said, adding that Citizens of Pigtown and SPARC are happy to work with BCRP as long as it upholds its end of the bargain.

We’ve made it very clear that if the ball drops gain, if they ghost us again, we are going to keep pushing.”

To reach a reporter: editors@baltimorebrew.com

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