By BETH JAGER
For the Baker City Herald
It was an unusual pairing the white haired grandmother in the room full of skateboarders, but Dorothy Wooters was wasting no time in addressing the disturbing results of her recent youth survey.
As part of the group Hand in Hand, Youth and Community, she has been involved with various agencies to create youth/mentor situations. The organization is based on extensive research that indicates responsible citizens are raised by a committed community of caring adults.
Wooters had distributed her survey in selected high school and middle school classes in the hopes of identifying areas of concern from the younger point of view.
Questions dealt with perceptions of family and community environments, self-esteem and use of time. Students were also given the opportunity to elaborate further or meet with Wooters for a one on one interview.
The overwhelming response from 200 surveys was a feeling that the community does not value its youth and that there is nothing for them to do in Baker.
Several students indicated interest in a one on one interview. Mrs. Wooters contacted them and arranged a meeting.
Nathan Helberg, Steve Stratford, James Sprie and Tim Stratton came prepared with drawings and suggestons for improving the skatepark located near the Sam O Swim center.
Their requests were simple permanent garbage cans, broom storage, benches and repair of the fun box, a ramp-like structure for tricks. The skatepark has provided a safe outlet for their skateboarding needs while keeping them off the streets and away from businesses, but its state of disrepair has made it undesirable for that purpose, they indicated.
Wooters advised them to collect signatures to determine support for the project and set about connecting with a few people to see what could be done. They arranged a meeting for the next day after school.
Even though it was the last full day of school, the meeting drew 25 kids and 95 names on the petition.
Wooters found support from County Commission Chair Brian Cole, Baker City Manager Gordon Zimmerman and the Governors Sustainability Committee, which just happened to be looking for a project. It looked like there was a good possibility the boys suggestions could be realized.
Youth in the Restorative Justice Program are available to partner with skateboarding volunteers to provide the necessary labor force under the supervision of Rex Hoopes.
The original proposal was broken down into two phases. This summer Phase I will include repair and enhancement of the existing facility and address immediate safety issues.
Phase II goes above and beyond the anybodys expectations with the planning and design of a new skatepark expansion. The project relies heavily on a commitment by the skateboarders themselves with concerned adults working together to make the dream come true. Design details will come from the boarders themselves.
Committees have been set up for this purpose as well as fundraising and publicity.
The youth are also working to improve the image of skateboarders in the community.
For more information or to make suggestions call Rex Hoopes at 523-8215, Nathan Helberg at 856-3294 or Matt Jager at 523-7898.