STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Durango might be a fun place for vacation or college, but to local teens, it’s still a really small town with not a lot to do.
It does not have an adequate “mall, big youth events or big concerts,” said Amber Kairalla, 18.
Given all the opportunities for outdoor recreation here, the teens’ complaint might produce an eye-rolling reaction from adults, but teens respond that not everyone is the outdoorsy type nor can everyone afford ski passes, a mountain bike and a truck with four-wheel drive.
“All of that stuff costs money,” said Aiyana Anderson, 17.
Plus, teens feel like they’re at an inconvenient age where they are too old for children’s attractions such as the Durango Discovery Museum but not old enough to enjoy the night life.
To fill this void of nothing to do, teens have organized the first-ever “Youth Expo” from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Discovery Museum, 1333 Camino del Rio.
An eclectic group of exhibitors ranging from Planned Parenthood to Habitat for Humanity to Dance in the Rockies will offer an array of opportunities for jobs, internships, volunteering, education and recreation. The list of exhibitors on Friday was “35 and counting,” including all local schools, Anderson said.
Anderson, the chairwoman of the Youth Expo Organizing Committee, which is part of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission, hopes the event will open some eyes.
“I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to do in this town, but I feel like there’s some (things to do). I don’t think people know about it. It’s getting the few resources we do have out to the people,” Anderson said.
Anne Gillis, owner of Dance in the Rockies, thinks there are things to do here.
“I feel like we’re always competing with soccer and softball,” she said,
But Gillis does think that it takes some initiative to get involved and develop an interest. Her dance studio encourages teens to try out dance styles as varied as hip-hop and ballet. It has a dance team for competitions.
Serena Mills, the assistant store manager of ReStore, a building supply store that supports Habitat for Humanity, was once worried her 16-year-old Tyler had nothing to do when he got home from Frontier Baptist Academy, where he is a ninth-grader.
So she got him volunteering at the store, unloading furniture from trucks and shoveling snow from the sidewalk.
“He has developed a strong work ethic,” Mills said.
Having grown up in Indiana where there was nothing to do but “watch the corn grow,” Durango Mayor Christina Rinderle said she can relate to frustrations of local youths. The youth commission was organized a year ago with an annual budget of $2,000. It has seven members and two alternates.
The mayor has succeeded in getting the group out of town, taking them to a League of Cities convention in Denver last year.
In addition to the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission, the city encourages teens to serve on its boards.
Anderson, for example, weighed in on purchases at the Durango Public Library as a member of its advisory board.
During a breakfast meeting of the city’s Multi-Modal Advisory Board, youth representative Hank Searfus spoke up for the frustrations of Durango High School students riding the trolley, such as the delays and overcrowding.
Anderson feels the mayor’s youth commission might be the best activity around.
“It’s like this really cool thing, and no one knows about it,” she said.
Anderson, a junior at Animas High School, is feeling better about Durango but still feels there’s not a lot to do. She is dreaming of California for college.
Durango is “a great town,” she said. “It has a lot of things for a lot of people, but it’s not the place for me, primarily due to the cold. I like bigger cities.”