Idea for local teen center tabled
SUMMIT COUNTY – After more than a year of research and discussion, culminating in a community forum last January, efforts to bring a teen center to Summit County are dead in the water.The January forum, co-sponsored by the Summit Prevention Alliance (SPA) and the Drug-Free Community Coalition, attracted more than 70 people, including many adolescents, but interest in the idea of a permanent space for teens to “hang out” was ultimately insufficient to move forward.”We received tons of calls from people supporting a teen center,” SPA executive director Jeanie Ringelberg said. “Unfortunately, only a couple of people stepped forward to work on the project through the task force.”Lack of a safe and drug-free place for young people to meet has been an issue in Summit County for many years. In 1992, a teen center in Frisco lasted for three months, until kids stopped going. Since then, local nightspots such as Downstairs at Eric’s, Barkley’s and Chill have hosted teen nights. All the efforts experienced initial success, but eventually had trouble with alcohol, drugs or poor attendance.Last March, the SPA again identified the need for some sort of community center for teens, and initiated a year-long study of the feasibility of such a project. “We did a lot of research on teen centers and found that the ones that succeed are driven by youth, not by human service agencies,” SPA’s Holly Busnardo said.The town of Vail’s teen center, opened in 1990, was one example the SPA and the Drug-Free Community Coalition looked at. Funded by mill levy, the center folded in 2004 after losing $15,000 a year because of poor attendance.”We have a lot of information on teen centers and we learned that they take tremendous resources to sustain,” said Lyn Manton Krueger, a parent involved in the coalition.New youth enterprise formedAlthough SPA has effectively tabled the teen center discussion – at least for now – the momentum for creating safe activities for youth has not evaporated totally. Recently, a group of young people calling itself “Activities Run by Youth” (ARBY) was organized with the help of Summit County’s Mountain Mentor program.So far, ARBY has hosted a free movie night at the Frisco recreation building and plans to sell concessions at both Frisco’s skate park and historic park general store.”It’s a youth enterprise,” facilitator Robin Albert said. “And it needs to be youth-driven.” Mountain Mentors is encouraging the group, but is leaving its direction up to the kids.Each of the kids involved went through a job interview process with Frisco officials.”The town of Frisco has really embraced this idea,” Albert said.According to Frisco Historic Park museum coordinator Simone Belz, ARBY plans to start staffing the park’s general store by the first week in June.”They’ll be selling retro-candy, like gumball and licorice sticks, sodas and coffee,” Belz said. “Keeping it in the theme of older mercantile.”Despite the current lack of sufficient community support, it’s unlikely that the idea of a local teen center is gone for good. A recent six-month study commissioned by the town of Breckenridge on the state of Summit County youth listed establishment of a teen center (or something similar) as one of its four major recommendations.For more information about SPA and its research on teen centers, call (970) 668-2077, or e-mail Jeanie@summitpreventionalliance.org. For more information on ARBY, or to get involved with the group, call Kelly at (970) 668-4154.Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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