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Need for teen center debated

The city of South Lake Tahoe faces the prickly quandary of a population split between those who desperately want a teen center and those who feel it would be a waste of money.

“As a parent, I feel that kids who are bored will get into trouble,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Malinda Siemsen. “Do I think there is a need for a teen center? Read the paper. Kids don’t abuse animals and set lizards on fire if they have things to do.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission recently estimated that, assuming an empty building was available, start-up costs for a teen center would total around $118,680. No further action was taken on the matter.



“The problem always seems to be the level of support it gets from the kids. It just hasn’t been sufficient in the past,” said city manager Kerry Miller. “I know the recreation department has programs for teens, and teen dances, but numbers are really up and down for those activities.”

The South Lake Tahoe Recreation Department does indeed offer a broad scope of activities, but they are often limited to daytime hours, leaving many teens with nothing to do after sunset. Friday nights at the movie theater, bowling or private parties remain some of the only appealing opportunities for young people at South Shore.




However, past efforts at providing teen entertainment, such as a coffeehouse at South Tahoe High School and a small teen dance club on Harrison Avenue, have failed. The last youth facility at South Shore was eliminated 20 years ago when the city offered the teen center building to the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.

For residents such as City Councilman Bill Crawford, teen centers are very low on the list of priorities, especially considering unsuccessful past experiences, he said.

“As a school teacher, I’ve been exposed to the adolescent population for years,” Crawford said. “Teen-agers just don’t want to go places that are heavily supervised – that’s why dances aren’t a big deal nowadays – kids just don’t buy into it anymore.”

But according to mental health clinician Manuel Jimenez, who works for the El Dorado County Mental Health department, the needs of South Shore’s teens extend far beyond such concerns. And difficulty raising funds for a youth center, he said, should not delay finding solutions to such an urgent need.

“There’s plenty of money out there, we just need to know where to get it. I think it’s the city’s responsibility, but there are also other resources besides them,” Jimenez said. “The thing is, in Tahoe there are kids that have, and kids that don’t have. Teens need to be able to participate in all kinds of activities at a low cost.”

Currently, the first recreation priority for the city is the ice rink and playing fields, Miller said.


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