An ambitious effort to extend healthy youth and family entertainment to Wallowa County residents officially begn Jan. 5 when the Wallowa County Youth Center, nicknamed The Dwelling Place, opened for business midway between Joseph and Enterprise. Director of Activities and Events Darrel Gilliland, who is now present whenever the center is open, said that an average of 12 to 16 youth from Wallowa, Enterprise, Joseph and Imnaha were already availing themselves of the indoor recreation.
For the first 10 days that The Dwelling Place was open no charges were made for those using the facility. Since then yearly memberships of $25 for families and $15 for individuals have been made available.
Gilliland said last week that 14 family memberships had already been sold.
At present the youth center offers three pool tables, one air hockey game, two foos ball tables and a ping pong table. Within the next week plans are to add a second air hockey game and two more ping-pong tables.
Gilliland says the center is in possession of 500 books still in boxes, waiting for volunteers to build shelves in the library room. By mid February the plan is to have two computers in the library hooked up to the Internet and two computers placed in an upstairs hallway for computer games. One of the latter computers has yet to be donated.
Having torn down the house located next to the main building, on property located directly across Hwy. 82 from Wallowa Mountain Properties, the desire of the group's board of directors is to pour a large concrete slab this summer where the house previously stood to create an outdoor basketball court. Estimated at a cost of $10,000 including crushed rock and rebar, the plan is to place a five-inch lip around the perimeter to turn the basketball court into a skating rink in the winter. Gilliland predicts that lights will be added.
A $200,000 loan from an anonymous private trust began the nonprofit's dream which will not be realized completely until an Olympic size indoor swimming pool and a full size indoor gymnasium are added to the complex. The latter, said Gilliland, will include a stage to bring outside bands for concerts and theater presentations, and seat up to 600 people.
Gilliland says that half of the youth frequenting the center are high school kids who drive to the facility while the other half are younger and can be dropped off by parents. Youth under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. The director says the center offers a golden opportunity for parents to interact with their children.
A community questionnaire is being planned to help set future priorities for the center, says Gilliland.
Additional use of the center is projected in the future as the word gets out about what is available. Radio, newspaper, churches and word of mouth are all mediums being used to spread the word about the center located 2 1/2 miles north of Joseph and 3 1/2 miles south of Enterprise.
The ruling body of the center includes chairman Dan Holub, vice chairman Dave Schaefer, treasurer Lee Dougherty, secretary Peggy Allen and board member Jane Robinson.