Outdoors Blog

Meridian gave its teens $20,000 to spend on a city project. Here’s what they bought

Brianna Siddoway, left, and Susannah Bradford are among the teenagers who were involved in the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council decision to install an outdoor gym at Tully Park in Meridian.
Brianna Siddoway, left, and Susannah Bradford are among the teenagers who were involved in the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council decision to install an outdoor gym at Tully Park in Meridian. ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The latest amenity in Meridian’s parks system was spearheaded by teenagers.

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council used the city’s first participatory-budgeting program to purchase and install nine pieces of outdoor gym equipment adjacent to the playground at Tully Park and just steps from the Bud Porter Pathway.

Participatory budgets give a group outside of the government an allotment of money to spend. In the case of Meridian’s MYAC, the group was asked to identify a project that would benefit the city. An outdoor gym was the result.

“It’s something that’s not only going to help the community with their health and lifestyle but also bring the community together,” said Cheyenne Quilter, the chair of MYAC. “It’s on the Bud Porter path. People are already walking. It’s just another destination for them to meet other community members and work out together. It’s going to be a legacy for this youth council as well.”

The MYAC was created by Mayor Tammy de Weerd, who has been in office since 2004. Giving the teens a chance to develop their own project was Councilman Joe Borton’s idea.

Other communities have used the participatory-budget model to get buy-in from neighborhood groups and other organizations.

“This just showed it was the perfect group (for the opportunity),” de Weerd said. “We can’t lose our talent. We want them to have ownership in their community and we want them to come back when they’re ready to start their careers, spread their wings, raise their families. We want them to know this is home.”

The City Council allocated $20,000 for the MYAC project. About 80 high school students participated in the council’s brainstorming, research and voting on the path toward the outdoor gym.

They started with 67 ideas — including recycling bins that would move around the city, benches with phone chargers and bike-rental stations. That list was trimmed to 17, which were vetted to determine which were feasible.

“They wanted pathways,” de Weerd said. “Recycling was a big thing.”

Pathways were too expensive, but the outdoors won out with the gym.

The nine-piece setup includes a situp board, back extension, rowing machine, leg press, chest press, air walker, elliptical, lat pull and pullups-and-dips machine. They were placed in a rare piece of Meridian parks grass not already in use.

“What’s great about this is it truly is what I would call a multi-generational activity,” said Steve Siddoway, the director of Meridian Parks and Recreation. “Little kids can be on the playground and Mom and Dad can be over here. So can older brother or older sister.”

MYAC has been allocated another $20,000 for 2016-17. The process will be tweaked, de Weerd said, including an emphasis on sticking to the budget.

The outdoor gym cost $34,000. MYAC raised $1,039 at its annual fundraiser and acquired a $12,961 grant from the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. Conger Management Group and CBH Homes donated the concrete.

“We take great pride in the fact that the youth brought this to us,” Siddoway said. “The youth said, ‘This is what we want,’ and we helped them deliver it to the park for everyone in Meridian to enjoy.”

His daughter, Brianna, was the vice chair of MYAC last year. She’s now a freshman at College of Western Idaho.

“We’re teenagers — sometimes you think, ‘I don’t have a voice,’ ” Brianna said. “If someone becomes a part of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, they find that voice and a way into the community. This is physical evidence of something we were able to be a part of.”