A forum held at Prince Charles Secondary School on Wednesday identified safe youth space, a youth co-ordinator and youth activities as priorities for the Creston Valley.
About 70 people — 50 youth, from Creston, Bountiful and the Lower Kootenay Band, and 20 adults, including regional district directors, the RCMP and members of the social services sector and arts communities — attended the forum, part of an initiative by Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), which is giving communities $25,000 a year for four years to put toward youth projects.
Aimee Ambrosone, CBT’s planning and development manager, facilitated the discussion, which had groups bring up key issues surrounding youth aged 12-19, explore ideas surrounding the issues and, finally, choose priorities.
The lack of a safe place for youth or youth centre was quickly named as an issue, with eight of about a dozen groups identifying it.
“Usually, it’s Millennium [Park] where most youth hang out, but that’s not always the best place,” said a boy.
“It’s not even open in the winter,” a girl added.
One participant stated that a few youth centres have popped up in Creston and subsequently failed, but Regional District of Central Kootenay Area C director Larry Binks felt that better input on their operation is needed.
“It will work if we decide it’s going to work,” said Binks. “We have to get the buy-in from young people.”
A lack of sports, art and other activities that youth actually choose and want was also a big issue.
One girl said that the Creston and District Community Complex’s leisure guide offered little for older teens.
“It had a few programs for teens under 16 and the only programs for over 16 were adult programs,” a girl said. “None of those were ones teens wanted to do.”
Art classes for teens are hard to find, said another girl, and art groups in the valley are geared toward older artists.
“They don’t do anything interesting,” she said.
“If you aren’t in minor hockey, there is no ice time,” said Mary Roundy, a teacher at Mormon Hills Elementary Secondary School.
She also raised a concern about the use of Goat River, which is often accessed on Highway 21 in a high-speed zone made congested by cars parked on both sides of the road.
“We’ve built barriers around our water rather than making it safely accessible,” said Mormon Hills school teacher Mary Roundy.
Binks spoke up to let the forum know that a plan is underway that would allow safe access and parking, but that nothing will happen until 2014.
“It’s a process and we’ve been working on it for the last four or five months,” he said.
Other issues discussed included transportation and drugs/alcohol, but the ideas of a committee, space, co-ordinator, activates and river access were carried through to the priority identification stage. Participants were given stickers to place beside the priority of their choice, and some chose to split their vote between two options or share it between two.
“Youth committee” received five votes and “Youth space” received 19.5, with five shared between the two. “Youth space” shared three votes with “Co-ordinator”, which earned 14.5 on its own. Six votes went to “Activity” and three were given to “River access”.
The priorities identified will be discussed in the near future, and the funds will be distributed to the community through the Town of Creston. This sort of discussion was needed in the community, said Jesse Willicome, Creston’s CBT youth liaison, who organized the forum.
“After being away from Creston for almost 10 years, I was surprised by how much things have changed — a lot of positive change,” said Willicome. “I was surprised to see things haven’t changed for youth that much. … I feel there’s a sort of critical mass around the issue. A lot of groups are trying to address it.”
He’s looking forward to continuing the process and making changes for Creston’s youth — and this forum was just the beginning.
“I think it’s going to be big in terms of the conversations it’s started,” he said. “I think the momentum will continue.”