It is accurate to say that with the overall good weather, heat, and humidity we have seen, it is summertime. Summer provides lots of opportunities for vacations from work and school, and time to spend with friends and family. In South Dundas there are many options for things to do. However there is one demographic that is left without many options at all – teens and young adults.
South Dundas does do a lot of things well. If you are into sports, there are plenty of options ranging from baseball, soccer, softball to swimming, and the like. The municipality has a wide variety of sports activities available for many youth and at varying competition levels. Recreation programming through the municipality offers many non-sports related program options for youth, primarily under-14 years old. Private program operators also provide access to quality programming for South Dundas’ that is also skewed to the under-14 group.
However, for those who are between 14 and 25 years old, the options in this community are slim-to-none. These limitations not only affect secondary school-aged youth, but young adults returning home from post-secondary education or who already work in South Dundas. This important demographic is overlooked, and it should not be. This group is where many of our future residents come from.
In 2019, the municipality had a youth engagement committee. A report consulted with youth in this demographic, and slightly younger, looking at what young people sought in their home community. Highest on that list was things to do that did not require driving 30-plus minutes out of the community. Some of this was sports-related like a multi-sport indoor facility, while others are easily tied into the economic development and tourism files. In comparison to other communities of similar size to South Dundas, we are lacking in options that make it desirable for young people to stay or return. More restaurants, entertainment, activities, and events that, while not 100 per cent geared towards this demographic, would appeal to this crowd and could do a lot to help draw our young people back, or keep the ones we have.
Many of the efforts that began with gusto in 2019 were derailed by the pandemic: but COVID-19 cannot be used as the only excuse for inaction in the community. Often now, three-and-a-half years after the declared beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID is still used as an indispensable catch-all excuse for doing nothing. Effort must be made, from municipal officials in economic development and tourism, to council, and the private business community. Government is not the solution to this problem. However, it can help steer a viable plan.
There is a large-scale community benefit if more effort is made to encourage new businesses and activities that cater to or include the young adult and teen demographics. Those outside of that category also like new things to do and also dislike having to always drive 30-plus minutes outside of town to do many things. Efforts to add entertainment will attract new tourists, and encourage new residents to the community to remain here. Doing nothing is a problem that can easily be solved. Let’s get started.