Vineyard teenagers are about to have a solid solution to that perennial complaint that there's nothing to do.
The Island's first teen center in more than 15 years is slated to open in mid-January in the Cottagers Corner building in downtown Oak Bluffs.
Ping-pong, pool tables, computers and lots of couches - that's what the new center is banking on to draw teenagers.
"We've had our hopes up for a lot of things. This one is looking good," said Ed Cisek, a 15-year-old from Edgartown and one of 14 teenagers who have planned the new center.
"There aren't many opportunities for teens, especially in the winter," he added.
The YMCA of Martha's Vineyard is leasing the building at 59 Pequot avenue and plans to operate the teen center there until late 2006 or 2007, when a proposed YMCA facility would be built across from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
The teen center, which will provide adult supervision, would be open from 2 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 11 p.m. Fridays, 4 to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays. The center would target youths 14 to 20 years in age. The building's two floors could accommodate under 100 people.
While the YMCA and the teenagers behind the project are excited at the prospect, some neighbors are already skeptical.
"I don't think you could have chosen a worse spot," said Ann Margetson, who said she anticipated the center generating a lot of noise and congestion. She lives about two blocks away.
The comments came during Tuesday's meeting of the Oak Bluffs selectmen.
John Clese, executive director of the YMCA, and Lyndsay Famariss, the association's youth director, described the teen center during the meeting.
Ms. Famariss pointed out that the Vineyard hasn't had a teen center since the late 1980s, when the Educomp center run by Vineyard Community Services in Vineyard Haven closed down.
"We will be the very best neighbor that we can," said Mr. Clese.
Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake said that he was among the teens who benefited from the center in the 1980s. "You do have our support," Chief Blake said.
Surveys of teenage behavior over the last five year have shown rates of drinking and drug use among Vineyard youths are higher than their mainland counterparts in the rest of the state. Island teenagers have also complained that they have no place to get together.
In response, the YMCA is putting together the teen center and using its in-house youth group, the Supporting League of Ideas and Projects - the SLIP - to do the heavy-lifting.
Mr. Clese said the teens are putting their thoughts into making the center a destination where youths will arrive and stay, rather than constantly come and go. The YMCA hopes eventually to have an operational kitchen there.
The YMCA already has moved its administrative offices to the building.
The center would shut down in July and August to allow the Cottagers full use of the building in those months. The Cottagers Inc. is a philanthropic organization founded in 1936 by a group of African-American women who owned cottages on Martha's Vineyard. Cottagers Corners is their headquarters.
One neighbor criticized the plan to keep the teen center open in June and September, when seasonal residents are still in the neighborhood. It's inconsiderate, said resident Jim Bryan.
"I think your hours might be a bit tough," he added. "Personally, I'm for you 100 per cent."
Selectman Richard Combra expressed concern about the lack of parking near the building. He called on the organizers to encourage teenagers using the center to ride Vineyard Transit Authority and school buses as much as possible. Ms. Famariss said it appears that the bulk of youths using the center would be under the driving age.
Roger Wey, chairman of the board of selectmen, told Mr. Clese that the community would be watching the center closely.
"I think this is going to be a real test," he said. "You have to work with the neighborhood."
In other action at Tuesday's meeting, the selectmen:
* Voted 4-0, with selectman Kerry Scott abstaining, to give conceptual approval to the proposed reconstruction of the Little Bridge and the Big Bridge on Beach Road. The bridges would include an eight-foot-wide section set aside for bicycle traffic. The Big Bridge also would have platforms on either side of the bridge, each seven-and-a-half-feet wide and 65 feet long, for the use of fishermen.
Ms. Scott expressed concern that the bicycle section would be built of pressure-treated wood, and that the fishing platforms weren't long enough.
* Voted 5-0 to allow recreational and commercial shellfishing in Oak Bluffs harbor on Dec. 11 and 13. They also voted 5-0 to increase the Oak Bluffs shellfish fee for people from other towns from $150 to $200. The move follows recent similar increases in Tisbury and Edgartown.
* Agreed to place a nonbinding resolution on the April annual town meeting warrant to support a Community Housing Bank, which would be designed to provide a steady stream of money for affordable housing.
* Agreed to place a nonbinding resolution on the April warrant to support making the Vineyard an "energy-neutral" place in a generation. Organizers of the effort want the Vineyard to produce as much energy as it consumes.