Cloverdale Reporter

Rec centre proposed for Clayton

Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode - File photo
Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode
— image credit: File photo

By Kristine Salzmann

What’s a teen to do on a Saturday night?

Not much, apparently, if they live in the Clayton Heights and North Cloverdale neighbourhoods.

But that could soon start to change, thanks to a number of community-minded people who have the interests of local youth at heart.

On Monday evening (Feb. 18), Surrey council approved funding for a range of events, programs and services aimed at children and teens in the area.

Council also asked staff to include the planning and design of the first phase of a Clayton Heights recreation centre as part of the Build Surrey program in the 2014-2018 Five Year Financial Plan.

Coun. Barinder Rasode said a rec centre makes sense for an area of such unprecedented growth, adding she also asked staff to look at the feasibility of including a library in the financial plan.

Last fall, Rasode was approached by community members who saw a desperate need for activities for local youth, and the sooner the better.

One of the residents who spearheaded the initiative is Jen Temple with Trademark Group of Companies, who manages the Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre on the south side of Fraser Highway.

Temple often goes out with the centre’s security guards in the middle of the night to talk with young people who loiter on the property.

“Every year we’ve had more and more problems – there are more and more youth in the area with nothing to do,” she said of the fast-growing neighbourhood. (Statistics Canada’s 2011 Census showed population growth in Clayton has tripled since 2006).

“They congregate and really just move in herds.”

The closest large movie theatres are in Guildford and Langley, and public transit isn’t available late at night. Even the new Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Highway 15 can be difficult to get to for those lacking a driver’s licence.

Temple decided to take a proactive approach. She was already working with Michelle Howe, who manages the Clayton Crossing Shopping Centre on the other side of Fraser Highway, on ways to engage the community. The two organize a yearly Clayton Day (currently known as The Party on the Hill) for families at their respective shopping centres the weekend before the Cloverdale Rodeo.

They met with RCMP Staff Sgt. Martin Blais, district commander for Port Kells/Cloverdale, and then contacted Rasode to talk about what was missing for local youth.

The new plan of action for Clayton Heights, in partnership with community groups, includes events for youth at Clayton Hall; a youth summit, kids conference, and early years festival; more hours for the MOYO (Mobile Youth Outreach) bus; bringing Surrey’s Youth Fest to the neighbourhood; and locating a portable building on a local elementary school site to provide daytime and after school programming for families and youth.

“Youth need a balance between structure and programming, and also free time with their peers in a safe place to hang out,” Rasode said.

Costs will involve $165,000 from the 2013 operating budget and community agencies, and another $85,000 allocated from the Council Initiatives Fund. A portable will be repurposed and moved to Clayton Heights for up to $165,000.

Blais hopes the new programs and services will have the added benefit of freeing up local police.

“We believe that if they have something to do other than just lingering around, it’s positive for them and for us – it reduces the number of calls for service to the police,” he said, noting last summer was busy when it came to calls regarding youth activity.

The RCMP will support the initiative by encouraging more Block Watch areas, offering crime prevention education at local venues, and spreading the word about the RCMP’s Junior Police Academy and SPURS program.

The next step is to consult with local youth. Focus groups at Clayton Heights Secondary are in the works.

“We want this to be youth driven,” said Rasode. “We don’t want to impose upon young people. They will be a very vocal, active voice in this.”

Temple commended city staff and numerous community organizations for getting on board so readily.

“It’s back to the basics. It takes a village to raise a child – how can we, the community, help with that?”

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