By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
After multiple incidents of swarmings in the Barrhaven area, a group of concerned locals have come together to make the community safer.
The parent-led team has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, the South Nepean Satellite Community Health Centre, and the Nepean, Rideau, Osgoode Community Centre, to see what activities can be started for youth in Barrhaven.
The group, initially started by concerned community resident Gina Sutton, has garnered over 360 members on Facebook,
The movement was started after the Barrhaven Independent Newspaper broke the story of a swarming which took place outside the Greenbank Road Farm Boy in June. It left a 16-year-old with what police described as “serious injuries.” The young teen suffered a concussion and a broken nose.
It’s just one of multiple swarmings which have taken place in the community over the past year and a half, and some feel more activities need to come to the growing suburban community to keep kids out of trouble. The Barrhaven Independent spoke to one mother recently whose son was randomly swarmed in the marketplace area. While some of the indents are targeted, others are not.
Anne Premachuk, an Outreach Worker and Program Coordinator at the Nepean, Rideau & Osgoode Community Resource Centre, says after receiving calls for help from the community, they stepped in to do what they could.
A Barrhaven Advisory Committee has been set up and is meeting at least once a month to try and brainstorm ideas for what a safer Barrhaven could look like. Those efforts expanded to the skatepark where they could get on the ground information.
“Our goal is to offer free drop ins in partnership with the boys and girls club of Ottawa, however to do this we need to know what exactly that would look like, where youth want this, and what exactly they want,” said Premachuk.
“That is why we are hiring two Barrhaven youth outreach workers who are going to assess the needs of Barrhaven through street outreach,” she added. “They are going to go where the youth of Barrhaven are gathering and actually talk to them and canvass them about what the ideal program would be. We are hoping that if we offer these drop ins, we can have the normal sports and rec, arts, cooking.. whatever it might be, but also free resources like drop in counselling, or maybe partner with different organizations to offer different employment services.”
Skate Park Barbecue
On Oct. 26, a Barrhaven Youth Community Barbecue was held at the Treehouse Mike Skatepark located on Greenbank near Berrigan, where some of the incidents have occurred.
The barbecue was attended by about 100 parents and teens, and 42 surveys were filled out. Twenty-five high schoolers also received volunteer hours from the event.
Among the ideas youth want to see is lighting in areas where they gather, such as at the skatepark, which can’t be seen at night. Out of all the surveys they received, Premachuk says this issue came up more than 50 per cent of the time.
16-year-old Riley Collins who is an avid skateboarder, spends much of his free time at the Treehouse Skate Park in Barrhaven. He says having lights there would make them feel safer, and would also give their parents a sense of ease.
“We have always wanted street lights because it’s hard to share in the dark, especially now that it’s getting darker earlier,” he said. “It would benefit everyone because the skateboarders will be here longer. When it gets dark it’s hard to see; you hurt yourself. We want to skate as long as we can.”
His friend, 12-year-old Tierson O’Neil agrees. While he says incidents at the skate park are rare, there can be a few bad apples. He’d also like to see more done to stop drugs and vaping.
Both teens witnessed the fight that happened outside Farm Boy, and the commotion which followed. They think if lights were installed, the number of incidents would go down.
Community organizer Darrell Bartraw, who is part of the advisory committee, has been advocating for lights at the park for some time. The issue they are running into is with supply of electricity to the park.
“I met with a local landscaper who was able to secure free lighting for the park and also for the BMX park, but we were unable to get the City of Ottawa to agree to put power at the park to hook into,” he said.
The end goal is to have a permanent building in Barrhaven where youth programming could run out of, but the short term goal is to pilot drop ins throughout the community.
The youth of Barrhaven say they would also like more indoor space to participate in free sports such as basketball, but it’s hard to come by. NROCRC says they hope to get their feet off the ground come January, in hopes of making the community a more exciting place for teens.
“We are hopefully going to have some drop ins in January if we can secure some space which has always been an issue,” she said. “If we can find some gym space or a building to have something once or twice a week — while we are also outreaching and talking to the youth, we will see where to go from there. When it’s the warmer months, if we can meet youth where they are gathering, maybe even at the skatepark, that would be ideal.”
“We think that by having the youth have a say on what they are doing — creating programming that is for youth by youth – then they are more likely to come,” she concluded. “And if we know where youth are, it kind of goes hand in hand with alleviating and lessening the rate of crime in the area, when there is actually an opportunity for them to go somewhere.”