Marijuana funding to help create youth community space in Glenwood Springs

14-year-old West Wussow climbs a route on the climbing wall after school at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs Community Center is seeking more marijuana tax funding to maintain the facility as a “third space” for underserved or at-risk youth.  

If a young person’s first place is their home and their second place is their school, the Parks and Recreation Community Center wants to become a third place for teens and preteens. 

“Support groups I think are the biggest one which is really where this program started out with,” said Brian Smith, Parks and Recreation director. “It’s ‘How do we help at-risk youth, those teens (who) are interested in mental-health issues, school support, navigating through social experiences and identity, buddy connections’ — all those kinds of things.”

Third spaces are community “anchors,” where community members congregate and socialize, building shared stewardship, according to a report presented at city council on Sept. 15.

“This program serves sixth through 12th grades,” he said. “We’ve issued 532 passes so far this year, and 10th graders had the most passes issued; but, from that breakdown, it’s fairly even across the board.” 

The community center has logged 2,355 visits by youth this year so far, and eighth graders are the ones who use those passes the most, he said.

Glenwood Springs parks and recreation received about $25,000 in funding from the Valley Marijuana Council Funds specified for youth-prevention programs to fund Glenwood Springs Youth Passes and supported youth programming. The program has proven to be successful, and, now, the department wants to continue and expand the program and funding. 

Passes are not active during school time, and that limitation is mostly based on funding. In 2022, Parks and Recreation spent about $21,000 of that $25,000, and Smith said they have seen a 20% increase of the passes issued year to year.

He said he is now asking for an increase for an overall $75,000 to expand the program and activities.  

The passes seem to be the most successful during weekdays, with Wednesday having the most attendance. 

14-year-old Alexander Dillon climbs a route on the climbing wall after school at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“Hopefully, they’re with their families or doing something else, but, you know, during those kinds of worrying weekdays, parents are at work, they have a place to go,” Smith said.

Smith said they anticipate issuing about 680 passes next year. Pass sales exceeded what the rec center predicted for this year, which he said is due to people feeling more comfortable with being in public spaces after the pandemic. 

“We don’t want it to blow up and have every youth in the community grab one because that would not be sustainable for us,” Smith said. “But, we do want to, you know, if it’s going to be a benefit to kids, most of the kids that are aware of this and going after are kids (who) need childcare services, they need a place to go.”

Though demographics and surveys are not taken, counselors work with the students to try to target youth who will benefit the most.

Local Data according to the report by Park and Recreation:

• Approximately 1,100 9th-12th graders attend school in Glenwood Springs.

• Alcohol, marijuana and drug use are higher than the state averages. 1/3 of students use alcohol regularly, 22% use marijuana regularly and 17% use other types of drugs with the use of prescription drugs without a prescription as the most common.

• Over 1 in 4 students are depressed, and 14% have considered suicide.

• Only 47% of youth in our region are hopeful for their future.

• Only 49% report they have a mentor.

• 68% have participated in an extracurricular activity at school and do not have strong data about out of school time engagement.

• In several youth surveys, almost every youth asked for free rec-center access, free bus passes and after-hours access to the library.

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