By Camille Aubin

camille@columbiavalleypioneer.com

The Columbia Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) held, on Nov. 6, a youth community summit event at Copper Point, to discuss local challenges and opportunities facing local youth.

Organizer Caitlin Hall-Sharp and Shawn Raven, both on the CVCF board, with the help of 15 youths, ages between 15 and 29, identified four major challenges their peers face in the Columbia Valley. After a long discussion, what kept coming up repeatedly and was identified as a struggle included issues of transportation accessibility, mental health resources, recreation programs, and affordable housing.

After identifying these issues, the youths were invited to think about possible actions for solving this challenge.

Transport accessibility

The bus that travels between and links each community during the weekdays does not run during the weekend. Addressing this issue is seen as beneficial for youth. A ride and share program may be the answer to better accessibility of public transportation. Something similar to the ‘Columbia Valley Ride Share’ group on Facebook, but one managed and regulated by an organization or supported through a mobile app. Additionally, those at the meeting suggest implementing a better transportation option from and between major cities such as Calgary, Golden, and Cranbrook.

Mental health resources

Youths mentioned that addiction and emergency resources aren’t as accessible as they should be, at least not from a long-term perspective. They described the resources as either too expansive or over-capacity and resulting in a lack of help when most needed.

Recreation

We live in small towns in the Columbia Valley. Finding activities that you enjoy, that are accessible, and that continue to exist is not easy, especially in these times of pandemic. Youth identified a gap that needs to be filled between high school ages and young parents, since there are no recreational programs for this age group. They asked for additional sports programs or teams, and increased gym capacity and hours. They also talked about their concerns regarding access to the outdoors. Youths do not feel comfortable going by themselves in the backcountry. They ask for a program that will help them get outside and enjoy the outdoors safely.

Affordable housing

Those at the meeting proposed to look closely at the hostel, one that offers safe, residential accommodation as well as a ‘rescue shelter’ in case of an emergency. Youth have proposed to monitor and limit the number of short-term rentals in the Columbia Valley, arguing that there are too many. Last but not least, they suggested exploring the possibility of a tiny house community that could provide a variety of affordable homes for people.

After this summit meeting, the next steps will be in the hands of Caitlin Hall-Sharp, CVCF executive director. She is working on a report that will be shared with local governments, the community, and other organizations. “Great conversation happens. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. We had a great time. It was beneficial to us, to the community, to hear their voices,” she concluded.