Pool keeps teens out of trouble
(This letter was originally addressed to and published in the Snowmass Sun.)Dear Editor:Thank you so much for publishing the article “Lessons learned from the crime spree of ’99” by Snowmass Sun columnist Margery Fridstein (Snowmass Sun, Sept. 14-20).Margery wonders about the crime spree group of 1999 as she learns about the recent sentencing of a local high school student who caused the death of a local teen hero by reckless driving. Margery asks if we “remember the Aspen/Snowmass Crime Spree of 1999?” I ask, how can we forget it? She asks if boredom could be a factor and, if growing up in the midst of Aspen/Snowmass wealth and glamour could have contributed to their behaviors?As a swim instructor, coach and trainer in the Aspen/Snowmass area for the past 30 years, and as a swim teacher to most of the kids involved the crime spree of 1999, I can say this with confidence:Most teenagers who are involved in reckless, destructive and nonproductive behaviors have way too much idle time on their hands and certainly are “bored” enough to get themselves into trouble. And this happens whether kids are raised in wealth and glamour or poverty and misery. Many kids are left on their own until they meet up with mom or dad sometime somewhere and who knows where or when. I think most people are aware of my diligent and painstaking pursuit of lobbying the local elected officials in Aspen and Snowmass about building outdoor swimming pools which are deep enough for teenagers to jump into without breaking their legs or hitting their heads on the bottom of the pool. I taught swimming to many of the kids in the teen crime spree of 1999 until they were about 12 to 14 years old. At that age the kids just got too big physically to fit into most of the pools in Aspen/Snowmass. I had to send them off on their bikes or skateboards to no man’s land.It would just break my coach’s heart to send these kids away from swimming. After a while, I started to attend more juvenile detention hearings than swim meets. That’s when I decided something productive needed to be done, and I started my campaigning and special events to bring attention to the issue. Happily, In 1999, after almost a decade of lobbying Aspen’s elected officials about our teenagers needing a place to go (the pool) and with the overwhelming support of the community, Aspen voters approved a revenue bond for new swimming pools, trails, tennis courts, golf, cross-country trails, etc. The bummer, though, voter approval came six months after the crime spree was committed. Snowmass and Aspen both have plans to build outdoor swimming pools – with Snowmass’ set to open next year. My prayer is that elected officials in both Snowmass and Aspen learn from the lessons of the teen crime spree of ’99 and the reckless death of a hero teenager, and build community swimming pools that are deep enough for teenagers to fit in. Toni KronbergAspen
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