Birch Bay discusses youth opportunities
What�s it like being a kid in Birch Bay? Where is the center of Birch Bay? What would you like to see offered to youth in the community?
These questions and more were discussed at a recent meeting, sponsored by Smart Growth Birch Bay, to identify potential recreational opportunities for Birch Bay youth. About 20 adults and five teenagers attended the meeting.
For nearly two hours, the group discussed ideas, and identified community strengths and weaknesses. �The first thing we needed to do was look at our community and list what�s good and what�s not so good,� said Alan Friedlob, co-founder of Smart Growth Birch Bay. �So we started with what�s good about being a kid here?�
The beach, friendly people and summer activities topped the list. �So where is the center of Birch Bay? That question is related to where activities take place. Where�s the center?� Friedlob said. �The answer that came up the most was the Sea Connection building. So then we have the issue of, is it on the beach or away from the beach?�
It�s where that central location is that some residents would like to establish recreational opportunities. �We discussed a multi-purpose community building that could be somewhere in town and used for activities, as well as a meeting location,� Friedlob said. �But first we need to establish a process.�
It is hoped, he said, that a committee combined of both adults and youth can be formed to evaluate the information discussed at last week�s meeting, as well as future meetings, to prioritize ideas and goals for the community.
�They (kids) really want to talk to people, and reach out to people. But they see the community being built around older people and how do they deal with that?� Friedlob said. �One kid thought it was a retirement home here.�
It is that difference in age, according to some at the meeting, that is a weakness for Birch Bay. Residents pointed out that timeshares, condominiums and resort facilities are geared towards the older generation, and on top of the difference in age, there is a disparity in income.
�Some said that income difference was a weakness. Some can provide more for children than others,� Friedlob said. �Also, some feel like �I�m not afraid of you, but there�s an image issue here.��
Currently, some of the local youth hang out at the Bay Market, and some of them say they have nowhere else to go, except home.
�That�s all they want, is a place to hang,�said Kathy Berg, vice-president of the Birch Bay steering committee. �These kids for the most part are good kids and they just want somewhere to go, to hang, that�s not home.�
In the case of the Bay Market, the local youth hanging out appears bad for business, but at the same time the kids say they are customers.
�The kids were like �they�re kicking us out, but we spend money here,�� Friedlob said. �Blaine based activities like the Blender, that�s the kind of thing that�s important. Then there needs to be reliable transportation between Blaine-based events and Birch Bay. We need to find a way to inventory what we have to see what can be used.�
The big question is what can be organized for the youth between now and the summer time. Also, how can those interested youth work with the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations to establish events?
�Put on some sort of activity to attract kids, then get them enthused about participating in other activities,� said Karl King, a local resident.
Meeting attendees also expressed the need for not just youth activities, but also events that involve the whole family. One of the goals is to create family centered-activities where kids and family hang out together. �What does the Birch Bay family look like? That question was asked as well,� Friedlob said.
The group will meet again in another public meeting sometime in January and will focus on breaking into small groups to develop visions including a multi-purpose community building that allows for active spaces as well as quiet spaces, the renovation of the Sea Connection building, an elementary school and a skateboard park. Questionnaires will also be created for Birch Bay parents and kids, as well as fundraising ideas and concepts.
�They (the kids) are the nucleus of something that can really happen,� said Alan Friedlob, the meeting�s facilitator and co-founder of Smart Growth Birch Bay. �It�s the fact they showed up. When they did that, we had the makings of a dialogue between the adults and the kids. The best ideas came from the edgiest kids.�
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