'There's not enough to do' Howard County: Some ideas for combating teen-agers' age-old complaint.

July 25, 1996

AFTER 29 YEARS, the planned city of Columbia still hasn't come up with a plan to keep its teen-agers entertained after sunset. Boredom -- and sometimes the thirst for excitement -- drives restless teens to places like village tot lots, where they TC congregate and litter play areas with beer cans.

Over in historic Ellicott City, Main Street merchants complain that loitering youths intimidate customers simply by their presence.

Pre-teens in Columbia enjoy a wide range of sports and other recreational activities, which continue to attract parents of young children to the community. But the high school-age crowd tells a different story. They complain -- as teens have for years -- that there's not enough to do. The Teen Center in Oakland Mills holds activities and dances for 11- to 17-year-olds, for example, but the older teen-agers generally shun the place.

At a forum convened by the African American Coalition of Howard County this summer, a bright teen-aged girl decried the lack of organized activities for her peers in Columbia. She said adults should establish organized events, such as night basketball. Activities are so few that teens scour the grapevine looking for any house party on weekend nights. The result, often, is too many children at one place.

In the past, overcrowded house parties have led to trouble, with fights and destroyed property left behind, said county police officer Mark Richmond. He spends much of his time working with juveniles while assigned to high schools. He told the coalition's forum that teen-agers come from outside Howard County, some looking to start trouble.

Perhaps supervised night basketball is a good start as a safe activity for older teens. The county certainly has ample facilities.

Also worth considering is an idea proposed by 16-year-old Holly Maggio, the River Hill village board teen representative, who envisions a center in Columbia that would be a coffee house during the week and a dance club on weekends. These would complement a newly proposed after-school arts and athletics program for youths 14 to 19.

None of these ideas will please all teen-agers; some are sure to eschew any activity organized by adults. But the cry, "There's not enough to do," might be lessened.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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