Fish or cut bait

It’s time to move forward — or move on — with two longstanding civic projects, Marion’s youth center and the Central Park stage and restrooms. Both sit at crossroads, desperately needing financial support. As important as money is, understanding and civic support may be even more important to both.

The youth center needs not just dollars but also volunteers willing to serve as chaperones and citizens willing to understand that it never will be a solution to perceived problems with high school students rather innocently hanging out on Main St.

The youth center is for younger students, the ones who might otherwise be tempted to hang out in unhealthy ways with the older crowd that’s more visible to residents concerned about youth activity.

The restroom and stage project also needs understanding and some degree of unanimity on what, exactly, the project is supposed to entail. Will it, first and foremost, be a restroom facility, or is the stage the project’s primary thrust? Should it be a visible centerpiece to the park, echoing the limestone of downtown buildings and other park projects? Or should it fade as nearly as possible into the park’s background, providing needed services but not a centerpiece.

Supporters pushing the project are understandably concerned that every time a plan for the stage and restroom project comes out, people pledging support seem to vanish. It’s as if everyone has his or her own idea of what the project should be and no one wants anyone else’s ideas to hold sway.

With the project’s conditional use permit nearing expiration, it’s likely another public hearing on the design will be needed. Now is the time for those with strongly held opinions to come forward and either endorse the latest plan or propose something else — and back it up with their checkbooks.

Maybe the stage should be smaller, the walls shorter, the location not so central. Maybe it’s fine as is. Whatever the case, it’s time for someone to step forward and give the project clear leadership, which most likely will come with donation of a large enough sum to cover 10 percent or more of the $100,000-plus project.

City fathers, frustrated by delays, are on record as saying they are willing to listen but point out that money talks louder than coffee-klatch grumblings.

— Eric Meyer

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