After many of us, including me, wrote about our frustration with the vandalism at the DinoMine park, I heard some feed back that this was just another attack on our teenage kids.
I know I didn't write mine to attack young people; I have no clue who did the damage. I have actually heard some third-hand info that it might have been a couple of 10 year olds.
I know that whoever has done it, it does not represent any particular group, but reflects solely on the actions of the individuals involved. Just because it happened at the DinoMine park also doesn't make it any worse than other vandalism that occurs in our community.
But I can understand the frustration of some of our teens that they are treated like second class citizens sometimes. Many of us idyllically look to the past where the teen hang out was the malt shop and the high school sock hops. It was probably more like "American Graffiti" where they gathered in clicks on the hometown streets at night and engaged in sometimes questionable behaviors.
In the 70's back in the Midwest, dragging main and hanging with your friends was the coolest thing you could do at night. We also had a teen club called the Spider Web that had bands, dancing and socializing. The rules were few, but smoking, drugs and drinking were prohibited. The police checked on things often and the community kept a wary eye on the activities, but it remained a teen gathering spot.
Teens need that kind of place to gather. It is a time in their lives where they are separating from the ties that have governed them. They need to test out their moral compasses and by the time they are 16, you have either given them what they need to chose the right course or not.
If we don't provide these places here in our community, they will find their own spots. The hills above Price are the perfect examples of that. Kids will sometimes feel obligated to try things they would not normally do because of the need to feel like they fit into the crowd.
By having spots in the community that our teens feel like they can gather and just hang out, we give the kids some safe places to do what teens like to do. Many worry if you leave teens to just hang, the behaviors they will engage in or be exposed to will be bad or illegal.
For some, groups of kids hanging out and playing music too loud makes them nervous. For others it may be irritating as their own neighborhood peace and quiet is disrupted. Businesses fear that kids hanging out on their property drive away customers and litter their property.
These are valid reasons to help find a suitable place for our teens to hang. Keep the school dances and activities. Stress the sports, church activities, volunteer opportunities, and club functions. Those are all great in shaping our youth's moral compasses and characters.
It may also be time to have a teen center in our community. It could be equipped with pool and foosball tables, along with a place to hold dances or play music. Far enough away from residential homes, but close enough for adequate supervision. It needs a large parking lot with lighting to keep kids safe, but also to function as another gathering spot. I would even propose some graffiti rocks to let the kids express themselves.
I think we have a great group of kids here in our community. From the kids who excel in sports and academics to the ones who are struggling to overcome great odds just to survive.
They are all our future and we need to be there for all of them.