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Chester needs a teen center

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To the Editor:
Having read over the county government's wish list and how they plan on spending $15 million in bond money I felt I should write this. The government is wanting to spend millions on ballfields and constructing and installing lighting on existing ballfields.
Concerning recreation in Chester County, I ask that you take a look at that old Springsteen Plant property in town. I think it's large enough to house a teen center, a walking path for adults, a bike path for kids, a skateboard park, a paved basketball court, a sandlot volleyball court, a picnic area for families and a playground area for the little kids.
Spending $2 million on ballpark lighting is not the way to go. Another $2 million for what the county is calling a "speculative" building to be located near the current York Tech Center here in Chester is, in my opinion, another waste of money. That's $4 million we could redirect to a teen center and park here in town. The Gateway in Richburg sits on 14 acres of land. That building cost us $5 million and counting. It houses, most days, only a dozen or so people at the most. The huge parking lot sits empty. In the long run we may begin to see some return on our investment, but at present that is not the case.
Part of that building and the surrounding land could be used as a more streamlined, smaller version of the main park and teen center in town. The same with the old abandoned health department in Great Falls. We need these smaller rec centers so that kids and adults countywide don't feel left out. I believe the Chester park would show potential business investors that we care about our youth, our future. It would also help revitalize the downtown area and pull people away from the bypass.
I am all for sports, for baseball. But this addresses the needs of only a small percentage of the children for only a portion of the year. To that redirected $4 million (extra penny sales tax money), I believe the state is also going to provide millions more if my understanding of what I read in The Herald is true.
I wrote this letter just to get you thinking about this. I just wanted to get you looking into the possibility and the cost. Right about now these children don't have anything to do and nowhere safe to go. The main teen center should be a 24/7 operation. Security would be priority one. Cops say they have no place to "drop off" underage children found wandering the streets at 3 a.m. when they can't find their parents. The teen center could be that place, that safe place, until a more permanent solution to their problem could be found.
This teen center and park could, in the long run, save the lives of these young people, giving them an alternative to life on the streets and gang life.
I close this letter with another letter. It was written by a 14-year-old young man two years ago. He said on July 2, 2012, to the editor of this paper: "My name is Del and I am 14 years old. Skateboarding is my life. The thing is, my town, Chester, doesn't allow us to skate. We don't have anywhere to skate. Actually we don't have anywhere to do anything. People don't realize skateboarding can keep kids out of trouble and also out of jail. But in my town, skateboarding can put you in jail just for simply skating on your  board in the city limits. I love skateboarding and it doesn't cost to ride my board, but Chester doesn't allow it. So what do teenagers have to do in Chester? Drink, do drugs, hang out and party? That's not the kind of life I want. But a lot of teens choose that because there's nothing else to do. Yeah, some kids do just tear stuff up, but there are others who try to take care of what we have. And we have to suffer because of the bad ones. Can anyone help?"
So did anyone, any of us, help Del, hear his plea? Do any of you, two years later, see any place for the young man to ride his skateboard, any place for all those other non-ball playing kids to do anything?
Thanks for reading.

John Massey
Chester