LONG BEACH - In recent months, both young and old have reacted to the number of youth suicides and accidental deaths of Peninsula youths. One common thread amongst these voices is the need for a youth center.

Two recent letters to the editor of the Chinook Observer came from concerned Peninsula youths, Tia Williams, 13, and Dylan Johnson, 11, who both singled out the former Long Beach Fitness facility on 10th Street as a perfect locale for such a facility.

"If there were a youth center, kids would have something to do instead of doing drugs," said Johnson in his Feb. 5 letter. "I hope the community will help us get the building."

The approximately 10,000 square foot, two-story structure has been sitting vacant since last spring when Long Beach Fitness closed its doors. The building's amenities include showers and a locker room-type set up for both boys and girls, as well as a kitchen area.

The asking price for the building is $900,000. It is owned by a company based in Portland, according to Wendy Wilson, a real estate agent at Dennis Oman Realty, which is listing the facility.

"From my point of view, I have thought about that building for the community," said Wilson. "There needs to be something for youths. That building is large and spacious and has so many options."

Wilson said the location is also ideal for a youth center, due to the fact it is on a bus route and is in the middle of town. Another perk is that it is not on the "main drag," which would alleviate the merchants vs. youths tension in downtown Long Beach.

According to Wilson, the building could also be rented out for school or other youth functions, if it were to be converted to a youth center, due mainly to the fact the building has a very large main room on the second floor. The building also has ample office space.

"I think a lot of people are stuck with the fact it was a fitness center and not seeing the other possibilities," said Wilson.

In early December last year, a local senior, moved by the news of three youth suicides in three months on the Peninsula, also spoke of the need for a youth center.

Catherine Waltemate, 77, said she sees a tie between local youth on the Peninsula feeling disenfranchised and a definite lack of attention that gets paid to them, particularly when it comes to providing them with any type of resources or facilities by communities such as Long Beach.

"We have got nothing for the young people," said Waltemate. "They need to know that people are behind them."

She said she would like to see more progress toward facilities such as a youth center, which would provide a safe place for local youths to congregate.

• For more information about the former Long Beach Fitness facility on 10th Street, contact Wilson at Dennis Oman Realty. The number there is 642-2538.

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