Bordered by the Richmond County Detention Center, Magnolia Cemetery and several dilapidated houses, May Park is in what Sirlester "Bo" Harrison calls "a unique situation."
Mr. Harrison, the park and community center's youth sports coordinator, said he uses the location to teach the area children valuable lessons.
"We have 401, the jailhouse, on one side and a cemetery on the other," he said. "So I tell the kids, 'You have a choice. You want to come in here with negative attitudes, you can end up at 401. Or, if you want to have a sorrowing day for your parents, the cemetery is up the street. You have the choice: jail, the center or the cemetery.'"
Within the May Park area, from Gordon Highway to East Boundary and Walton Way to Walker Street, the community center is a positive anchor. It is the site where children from preschool age to teens sign up for recreational football, basketball, baseball, soccer and softball. All of the sports except soccer are played at the park.
Many of the sports recently were offered at Center Sports Academy, the youth summer activities camp held at the park.
The park affects more residents than those in the May Park area, Mr. Harrison said, because people from throughout the Augusta area sign up for sports there.
People also rent the building for "family reunions, wedding receptions, parties and things like that," he said.
Mr. Harrison grew up three blocks away from the facility, which he said he's seen grow tremendously from being simply a park with a playground, pool and tennis and basketball courts. He said he has enjoyed working there for 21 years.
"May Park has been around for a long time - since I was a kid, and I'm 50 years old," he said.
The location brings thousands of Augusta and Aiken residents together for Mayfest, the annual outdoor concert held by radio station WFXA-FM (103.1).
Aside from sports, the center also offers after-school programs and other activities for children, Mr. Harrison said.
"The center overall has had a great impact on the young men and women that use the facility," he said.
"A lot of guidance they don't' get at home, they get at the center."
Thankful Baptist Church is another positive place in the area. In addition to its regular Bible studies at noon Tuesday and 6 p.m. Wednesday, the church recently began holding studies at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays to get more of the community involved, said church member Lisa Cobb. Mrs. Cobb said she'd like to see the area cleaned up and the houses remodeled.
"I think the extra Bible study is good," she said, "because it's an area with a lot of alcohol and drug abusers, and I think this could help."
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