The plan is not yet in place, but the man who will be spearheading the development and implementation of a comprehensive citywide youth activities program is working on it.
Ron Paris, a lifelong Claremore resident, took the podium Tuesday night at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the newly named Lincoln Community (west of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and north of Will Rogers Boulevard).
“We are going to start with one youth night each month at the Community Center, and we are going to be consistent with it,” Paris said.
Paris said bringing back regular youth nights at the Community Center on north Sioux is just the beginning. Starting Nov. 4 and every first Saturday of the month thereafter, 5th and 6th graders can spend time at the center from 7 to 10 p.m. On the third Saturday of the month the center will focus on 7th and 8th grade activities.
His reference to the on and off again Teen Center program in the city was acknowledged by the 15 people in attendance at the meeting as a start, but questions were raised about plans to broaden the scope to include outdoor activities and diverse activities.
City Manager Troy Powell and Community Director Mark Rounds voice support for a broader youth activities program.
“This is Ron’s full-time job,” Rounds said. “In the next 30 days we will put together a comprehensive plan. We want to include a lot of different things so (youth) can pick and choose what they want to do. That is exactly what we haven’t had in this town in the past.
“We are talking about a comprehensive program, something we haven’t had before,” Rounds said.
Powell said he is big on accountability and “when I sign my name” to a comprehensive plan, it will happen.
“I will make sure resources are there. I think we need supervised activities and part of what we are trying to address is diversity of activities. You can’t put everyone in the same circle,” Powell said.
Claremore’s youth activities, or lack of alternative programs outside youth sports programs, were called into question earlier this year when changes were made at the Recreation Center denying free access to basketball and volleyball courts and the indoor walk track.
The city implemented a fee system for all Recreation Center services to offset an ongoing operating deficit at the Center.
Powell had promised, in turn, a youth activities director would be brought on staff to address a growing youth population and their needs for safe, productive activities.
Paris has been on staff about two weeks. He’s itinerary has included meetings with several groups. He said plans are to continue meeting with church leaders, school leaders and other community program leaders that could contribute to the development of a citywide youth program.
One point raised by a young adult attending the meeting was the need for outdoor activities, such as outdoor fitness courses and fishing, in addition to the indoor Teen Center program.
Questions were also raised about a skate park.
Powell said plans for a skate park were put on hold when he arrived in the city in December 2005.
“To be truthful, it probably would have been built if it hadn’t been or me,” Powell said. “But, when we do it, we want to make sure we have the resources to do it right.”
Rounds said hopefully answers will be coming shortly.
“Part of Ron’s job is to meeting with the different groups in the city,” Rounds said. Plans are already in place to form advisory adult and youth councils to provide public input.
“We are also thinking about holding a youth rally,” Rounds said, as a means of raising interest and getting feedback.
Of particular interest to the residents of the newly formed Lincoln Community is discussion of property behind Reasor’s store that could be turned into a community park.
Charles Amos asked about the possibility of acquiring the old Lincoln School facility, which now houses the public school bus maintenance facility.
“There’s a lot of history there,” Amos said. The school was once the center of what was once a thriving black community along Owalla and Oseuma streets.
The city’s outdoor pool, located in Will Rogers Park at the junction of 20 and 88, will probably never be restored to use.
Rounds said plans to reroute Highway 88 through the park and the deteriorating condition of the pool and subsequent up keep will probably mean another pool would have to be built.
There are no plans at this time to build an outdoor pool.