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Editorial: Parkersburg’s future dependent on keeping, attracting young people

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Too often, elected officials and the citizens who put them in office are so focused on the challenges of the present (and past) that they lose sight of the opportunities that will propel them forward. During a Parkersburg Finance Committee meeting earlier this week, Councilman Jeff Fox made a perfectly reasonable observation, as he questioned the amount of money being considered for allocation toward a splash park at City Park pool.

“I think we’re an older city,” Fox said. “We have a lot of retirees in this city. Younger people are moving away.”

Fox is correct, of course, about Parkersburg’s current demographics.

But that is precisely the reason projects such as a splash park are necessary — not just a nice idea; necessary.

“To keep younger people here, we have to appeal to a younger crowd,”Councilman Zach Stanley said.

And Parkersburg should not be looking simply to keep the young people who are here, but to attract new people, new families.

Residents and officials must shift their focus from what we are — or, worse, what we were — to what Parkersburg can become. Priorities and attitudes must shift. Employers must know they are investing in a community that values education, cultural and recreational opportunities; where the young families they bring to town can live, play and contribute without having to wait until the next generation before no longer being considered “outsiders.”

Certainly one splash park is not going to complete that shift. But it can help change the momentum.

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