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February 27, 2014
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Youth advocate: Nevada City Boardwalk curbs risky behavior among teens

The Commercial Street boardwalk in downtown Nevada City may curb high-risk behavior among local youth, according to Lynn Skrukrud, co-founder and director of NEO, which stands for New Events and Opportunities.

The NEO organization started in 2008 under the umbrella of The Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County with the aim to empower young people to make healthy lifestyle choices by providing positive alternatives.

“Young people in our community don’t really have anywhere to go after school or on weekends, so a lot of times they will end up engaged in high-risk behaviors,” Skrukrud said.

“Having somewhere like the boardwalk gives them a place to be in the community where they don’t necessarily have formal supervision, but they’re in the public eye.”

That can have a direct impact on teen drug and alcohol abuse, and possibly other forms of crime like theft or violence, she said.

“When you have a form of public supervision, then you have a different sense of accountability. It gives young people a reason to follow the rules they were brought up with,” Skrukrud said. “They’re much more likely to be engaged in positive behaviors than if they’re off in the woods, doing things that no one would be seeing.”

“Having adults and positive role models (around) makes a big impact on the choices youths make, because they know there’s expectations they’ll be held to.”

The Commercial Street boardwalk has become a lightning rod for complaints about behavioral problems downtown, like smoking tobacco or marijuana in violation of a city ordinance that prohibits smoking anything on sidewalks and streets within the historical district.

“A lot of what we’ve heard about the boardwalk so far is just people complaining about what they’re seeing versus trying to change those behaviors they don’t like,” Skrukrud said.

“Getting people to realize that it really is important to engage with the people on the boardwalk ­— not fear them, but instead get to know them on a personal level ­— I think that’s really important, and will solve a lot of the issues we’ve been seeing.”

The boardwalk is technically classified as a temporary structure that can be removed by order of the city council. In a January meeting, the council moved to keep the boardwalk in place for an additional year – but the matter will be reviewed again at the end of that time.

Mayor Sally Harris stated that it may ultimately be removed unless the community takes responsibility for mitigating the behavioral problems that some residents blame on the boardwalk’s presence.

In response, leading boardwalk proponent and former Nevada City Councilwoman Reinette Senum is working with local merchant Shauna James to organize the Boardwalk Sidekick Team — a group of volunteers willing to educate downtowners about appropriate neighborly behaviors and to pick up litter.

Those interested in getting involved with the Boardwalk Sidekick Team can reach James by email at shawnajam@yahoo.com.

To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, call 530-477-4230 or send emails to dbrooksher@theunion.com.

“Having adults and positive role models (around) makes a big impact on the choices youths make, because they know there’s expectations they’ll be held to.”
Lynn Skrukrud
Co-founder and director of NEO

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The Union Updated Feb 27, 2014 10:58PM Published Feb 27, 2014 10:58PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.