Northwest NEWS

September 11, 2000

Features

Woodinville Parks and Recreation listens to teens

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Teenagers may sometimes feel that adults aren't listening to them. But at the Woodinville Parks and Recreation Dept. this isn't the case. Teen Coordinator, Cole Caplan, and the Parks and Recreation staff are listening.
   On September 19th, Cole Caplan will sit down with teens in the City Council Chambers where a planning meeting is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. This is a time when Caplan listens. In the past, when Caplan has held a planning session, he's heard all kinds of things from the teens who attend. Some tell him they would like to learn swing dance. Others say they want to ice skate with their friends. And this input has affected the direction of teen programs, as both of these activities were included in the Fall 2000 Recreation Guide. Their input will also affect the future of their program, determining budget and facility requests that will be passed onto the City Council for approval.
   Caplan has also heard from teens that they want a facility to call their own; a center where they can have a venue for their music, hold study groups, share poetry reading, learn crafts, and basically have fun with friends in a space that is designated for them. They would like to see the center as a comfortable place with plenty of couches and with a bright and lively game room full of ping pong tables and video games.
   In addition, teen musicians who are in local garage bands have expressed their desire to have a place to perform their music. Not wanting to ignore this desire, Caplan has scheduled a meeting right after the planning session on September 19th in Council Chambers from 8-9 p.m. for all those interested in music and open mike opportunities.
   Caplan explained that young people have a tendency to hang-out in front of businesses for lack of a place 'to be.' They need, he said, to be with people of like mind. But when they are seen talking with friends in large groups in front of the movie theater or in a restaurant parking lot, they're labeled as 'loitering.' And for this reason, Caplan‹as well as the majority of respondents to the recent Community Needs Assessment survey‹believes that a Teen Center would be appropriate for the Sorenson site.
   Of the survey, Director of Parks and Recreation Lane Youngblood said, "This is just the very, very beginning of public input." Then added, "But it looks to me like there's a pretty strong trend we should be dealing with teens."
   As for the Sorenson site, the Civic Center Master Plan Steering Committee will be looking into a variety of uses for the site, in addition to meeting the needs of teens which were identified in the community survey. The Parks and Recreation Commission will review the findings and make recommendations to the City Council for final approval.
   However, Parks and Recreation isn't waiting for a permanent facility. With an emphasis on programs, they already are dealing with teens in numerous ways. In addition to the teen planning meetings, there is the Woodinville Teen Program. "I'm trying to offer a diversity of programs," Caplan said. And from the looks of it, he's on his way to meeting his goal. For those who like to rock, a trip to the Experience Music Project is scheduled when students are out of school for an in-service day. At Christmas break, "Phun with Photo" is scheduled for photo buffs. Also at the break, the ski bus will transport snowboarders and skiers to Stevens Ski area.
   To keep everyone in touch with what's planned or coming up, Caplan e-mails a newsletter to teens every two weeks. Through the electronic newsletter, he outlines programs. "I try to find out what they want to do and I do it," he said. Another way that the Parks Dept. communicates with teens is through a web site which Caplan oversees and is updated by two volunteer teens.
   "What's important," Caplan said, "is investing in teens and empowering them."
   To sign up for the electronic newsletter for teens: colec@Woodinville-city.com
   Teen web site: www.Woodinville-city.com/teens
   All teens are welcome to attend the planning session on September 19th to share ideas and opinions. For further information, contact Cole Caplan at 425-398-9327 x 297.