August 10, 2011 In house editorial/Where is a safe venue for our youth?
We've all heard the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." We think not when it comes to Mt. Juliet.
However, in one aspect this saying is right on target when we talk about our local teens. If we strip away their latest gadgets, censor the language and content of popular television shows they watch and throw out their cell phones and iPods, deep-down, teens today are basically the same as they were a couple decades ago.
That may be a bit of a stretch, but today's teens still long for a safe place to hang out – a place they can go, throw cares away for the weekend and join together in something fun. It is with great sadness to say that there is no such place for teens in our community.
Several years ago Mt. Juliet Skate Inn was closed down. Several generations of Mt. Juliet folks took refuge at this roller rink during their youth. It was the place to gather, make friends and enjoy being together under the security of the proprietor, but with independence from parents. Many of our city's business leaders grew up skating there. It's closed for good.
We do have The Jumpy Place, but this is for the younger set. The closest such venue is Providence Marketplace where on Friday and Saturday nights groups of teens gather to go to the movies and perhaps hang out at the ice cream shop. Last Friday’s attempted abduction of a teen at the marketplace in full view of witnesses shows that while this was a rare occurrence, dark parking lots are not be the safest place for our youth in this community.
There is no organized family-fun, entertainment venue for teens here. This is fundamentally wrong in a city that has lured thousands to new subdivisions.
This week we report senseless vandalism at South Mt. Juliet Dog Park. Police say it was not gang related, but most likely teens with too much time on their hands. No, we are not saying if there were venues for teens in Mt. Juliet this would not have happened. We condemn the senseless and expensive disregard to city property. However, perhaps if there were some teen hangouts, acts like this would diminish.
Where are teens supposed to go these days? We have hundreds of retail establishments offering all sorts of services at Marketplace, but ironically, we don't have a city swimming pool or a bowling alley. Other cities have ice skating rinks, and, of course, many have a local roller rink. We urge our entrepreneurs to think about filling this niche that is startlingly empty at this time.
Countless times we've reported vandalism cases in our fair city. These crimes are generally committed by teens with idle time. It is time to think about the city as a whole.
We've recruited people with our subdivisions, we've enticed retailers with our prime location and we've touted our good schools to draw families. When are we going to get on the stick and give area youth a chance to make memories like the one's made at Mt. Juliet Skate Inn?
We know there may be a movement afoot with some non-profits pooling efforts to provide such a place. We commend this fledgling movement and will report more in the coming weeks.
We encourage our city leaders to now recruit businesses that cater to our youth and give parents peace of mind that the community they've chosen to live in is well-rounded and a place that offers a chance for this generation of youth to make memories.