The Evolution of the Baltimore City Bureau of Recreation: 1940-1988

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The purpose of this study was to examine the evolution of the Baltimore City Bureau of Recreation from its inception in the 1940, as the Department of Public Recreation to the beginning of 1988. Research focused on major policies that were developed in the areas of administration, budget, staff, facilities, and programs. Social, political an economic factors were examined to determine the effect each had on the formation of these policies. The historical method research was used to examine the artifacts and documents gathered for this study. The data were ordered utilizing the following chronological eras: 1) World War II and the Post-War Era of the 1940s; 2) Desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s; 3) Urban Renewal of the 1970s and the Changing Social Climate of the 1980s. Changes in the policies of the Bureau of Recreation were quantified to measure increases and decreases in budget, staff, facilities and programs. Decisions of the Board of Recreation and Parks, the policy-making body of the Department of Recreation and Parks until 1987, were examined in light of the three factors mentioned above. The research showed that the policies of the Bureau of Recreation changed significantly over the years, most dramatically with the desegregation of the Department after the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision, and the influx of Federal funds for the City of Baltimore after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Board of Recreation and Parks focused much of its attention on the "showcase" areas of the Department, like the Baltimore Zoo, Memorial Stadium and the five public golf courses. In 1984, when most of these units were privatized, a power struggle ensued eventually leading to a 1987 referendum that stripped the Board of its policy-making powers. The conclusions of this study indicated that while economic and social factors had obvious influence over policy decisions in the Bureau of Recreation out of necessity, the political factors had the most dramatic effects.