Youth offer thoughtful voice in Cochrane election

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Adults aren’t the only ones in Cochrane thinking about the upcoming election – teens are also offering up thoughtful commentary on current issues facing the town … and they want the next mayor and council to consider their unique perspectives when making decisions over the next four years.

A group of Cochrane High School students in Grade 9 and Grade 11 spent a recent lunch hour talking traffic, western heritage and local job prospects in the days leading up to a teen mayoral forum on Friday at the high school.

On the hot-button topic of Cochrane’s crowded roads, the youth said they would like to see some sort of transit system to alleviate the pressure they feel from the passenger seats of their parents’ cars – while giving them some breathing room at the same time.

“We could be a lot more independent,” said Kendra Williams, a Grade 9 student, about riding a public bus. “Then I feel like I’m not relying on other people.”

“I think a lot more people would go downtown,” said classmate Peter Ursem, adding it’s difficult for students to even reach a fast food lunch stop on foot and get back to school in time. “It’s a big rush.”

When teens do cross the road, they said safety becomes an issue, since they must cross the Fourth Avenue North intersection at the busy 1A highway on foot.

“It’s busy – and not everybody stops,” said Williams. “The traffic is ridiculous getting down that hill … and it’s jam-packed.”

“Transit would put less cars on the road,” added Grade 11 student Mackenzie Davis.

Another election issue centres on the lack of meaningful activities for youth, and the group agreed there is a gap in social gathering places for those in the mid-teen years.

“Some designated hangout spots would be nice,” said Ursem.

Williams pointed out that without a place to go, a lot of kids currently hang around at McDonald’s or spend their time at Walmart. The students said they have heard some adults advocating for more hockey rinks around town as one solution to the problem – but it’s something they don’t fully support.

“We have enough rinks,” said Grade 9 student Aiden Cathcart.

“We can always use the money for another hockey rink … to (instead) make a community centre where people can hang out,” added Ursem.

The teens also noted they would love politicians to listen to those who “spend every day in Cochrane” rather than bend the ear of residents who simply have a home here and spend most of their time in Calgary.

Finally, the watering-down of Cochrane’s identity drew a lot of passion from the group, who want to see the next mayor and council work hard to maintain the town’s western heritage.

“As we’re getting bigger and bigger, we’re kind of losing our roots,” said Williams. “We’re expanding so quickly, it’s literally going to be Calgary.”

For Ursem, the Ag Society grounds are a sacred space – and he urges town officials to maintain that western vista as our own. As a member of the Cochrane Pony Club, he said the land is a big draw for visitors who come to town, spend money in our restaurants and stores – and leave with a lasting impression.

“I think it’s very important, because it helps us be our own kind of town,” Ursem said.

“A big part of Cochrane is how small it is, the mountains, the nature,” added Davis. “You don’t want that to go away.”

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