Including youth in decisions beneficial to all

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

Finding ways to prepare our youth to become the best they can be as the next generation to lead this country has been a concern nearly since it was founded.

Parents, organizations and communities are always looking for ideas and creative solutions to keep our younger generation educated, responsible, honest, ethical and active — and off the streets.

That's why it's so sad to see the situation with the skateboard park in Soldotna taking place. The city has run into so many problems with the park that shutting it down until spring is a better solution than anything else at this time.

Even the police are relieved.

What a shame.

Each generation has its share of troubled youths, although it seems that as parents and guardians find it more necessary to make a living outside the home, children are supervised less and less. Television and video games are good for occupying time, but they do nothing to stimulate the brain — and exercise the body — of a growing child, let alone teach them responsibility.

Let's face it: Kids get bored in a hurry these days. Our "give it to me now and be quick about it" society has created a technology-obsessed generation with a short attention span.

The skate parks are a great idea for combating boredom and getting kids to exercise, but if they're creating more problems than solving them, the purpose if defeated.

It's hard to fathom that some of those for whom the parks are intended have taken it upon themselves to turn them into a territorial war zone and are vandalizing the area. There are reports of drug abuse at the park, as well.

Even sadder is when those who sincerely would like to use the park are frightened by the bullies who are convinced the park belongs to them.

Unfortunately, it's the bad news that gets our attention.

Fortunately, there also are a number of positive activities taking place in our communities, too.

The list of beneficial activities available to our younger population in the central Kenai Peninsula is a long one. Our communities have made sure of it. The list includes art and dance classes, movies, the Teen Center in Kenai, Boys and Girls Clubs, hiking, biking and there's still fishing to be had.

There are school activities, sports, music and many area church groups that provide activities all year long.

In essence, there are lots of productive things for our kids to do.

In Kenai, the acquisition of a grant to develop new soccer fields and a BMX bike park is another way we are responding to the needs in our communities.

There is a solution for Soldotna's problem, it's just a matter of involving the youth themselves in finding it. No one has better ideas these days than those most affected. Take for example a 12-year-old student who suggested the city move the park to a more visible location in hopes it would discourage the current problems.

Whether it's feasible is another issue, but one would think the city council would much rather grapple with that than having to replace the burned down toilets or increasing police patrols to try and catch drug users and vandals.

As leaders, we always tend to look at solutions through adult eyes. Council member Jane Stein's frustration led her to address her comments to high school civics students attending Wednesday's council meeting. What a great idea.

There are smart, sensible children in our communities, and we have to trust that we raised them capable of making good, sound decisions. What better show of faith in them than to ask for their help in solving a problem that affects them? It's also a way to give them a taste of accountability.

There may not be any perfect answers for how to handle the Soldotna skateboard park problem, but between us all, there is a powerful solution.

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