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Calling all young people: New group hoping to promote addition of amenities to Worthington

WORTHINGTON — A new group led by young Worthington residents is aiming to help shape the city into a more desirable place to live — specifically for young people.

The mission for Regional Activity Development (RAD) is simple: tell Worthington leaders directly what young people want to see happen in their town.

The city has long struggled to attract and retain young people, particularly young college graduates. The Worthington City Council is currently planning to spend millions of dollars on projects that are meant, in large part, to fix that problem. However, some city officials worry they’re disconnected from the younger generation and may not understand what young people want.

City Administrator Steve Robinson encouraged Emily Williamson, Logan Ahlers and Megan Wass to start an ad hoc committee after hearing them speak at the Worthington Bio Conference about a lack of things to do in Worthington. The trio has taken the lead and created its own group — and it wants more people to help them come up with ideas.  

“They want to hear our voices,” Ahlers said. “They want to know what young people want. This is a big opportunity for us to show them our ideas, give them our opinions.”

RAD has already identified a main priority — creating a central gathering point that caters to young people, including those under 21 years of age. That could come in multiple forms — the bowling alley was an example of a central hub. One idea is a multi-purpose building that includes a restaurant and bar, dance floor, movie theater and arcade games.

The lack of such a hub is a problem, especially for those under 21 — specifically high school students — who get in trouble because they don’t have a safe, fun place at which to meet up, Ahlers said.

Another main focus, the group agreed, needs to be on indoor activities. Williamson noted that the council is interested in investing in warm weather activities, such as a new pavilion on the farmer’s market parking lot.

“We have the summer things, we have the Regatta, the International Festival, King Turkey Day, we have a great lake, parks, bike paths, all these things,” Williamson said. “But what are our 14,000 people going to do from October to April?”

The group wants to help guide the creation of amenities that will keep young people in town and bring in people from the region. The ultimate goal is to present RAD’s ideas to the city council and anyone else that will listen, whether that is other governmental agencies or private investors.

RAD has tentatively set its next meeting for 6 p.m. May 14 ain the Minnesota West Community & Technical College commons. The group will be setting up an official Facebook page as well.

RAD is open for all to join. For those with questions or ideas, contact the group at rad.worthington@gmail.com, Ahlers at 360-2734 or on Facebook.

Ahlers and Williamson, both Minnesota West graduates and employees at Blue Jay Villas, said the city has a prime opportunity for growth with 108 new students — most of whom are not from southwest Minnesota — moving into the new Worthington housing development.

“If we have a place to go, something to do, something that makes them go ‘Worthington is really fun,’ we might see some retention from these Minnesota West graduates,” Ahlers said. “If you give somebody a really good experience, they might stay. If you don't work at providing that experience, what’s making them?”

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