By Robin Shannon
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:56 AM CDT
EDGARD – A budding park complex on the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish continued its growth Friday as parish officials broke ground on a much anticipated airnasium project.
The project, which includes an open-air covered basketball court and accompanying restroom facilities, is the latest addition to the West Bank Park Complex in Edgard. The sprawling park, situated on River Road about a mile from the St. John Courthouse, also features baseball fields and a walking track.
“This will be a great addition to what is already a popular spot for residents of the west bank,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “The goal of the West Bank Park Complex was to contribute to a healthier lifestyle for residents, while giving them a place to gather as a community. It is a true neighborhood park.”
The parish has a roughly $500,000 contract with M. Slayton Construction of Metairie to perform the work, said parish spokesperson Paige Braud. The contract was approved in April, but high water on the Mississippi River delayed the project because of construction restrictions from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Braud said work at the site began Monday and the tentative schedule for completion is early January. The regulation size court and separate restroom building will take up about 8,000 square feet of the park’s space, according to project architect Norman Chenevert.
St. John Parish Councilman-at-Large Lucien Gauff, who represents the west bank, said the facility is another opportunity for the parish to give back to the community by continuing to improve the west bank’s flagship park.
“We need the community to participate as well,” said Gauff. “We want them to let us know what is needed to keep the park going. It is a heavily used park and we want to keep it that way.”
The airnasium project is the third phase of improvements to the West Bank Park Complex. In 2009 the parish added three baseball fields, new lighting, a concession stand and restrooms. In March, the parish completed a $281,000 project to add a new entrance, the walking path, a parking lot and a paved road into the park. The improvements were funded through the parish’s $29.5 million bond issue.
“This has been a long time coming for this community,” said St. John Parish Recreation Director Errol Manuel. “We have been working on this park for the last 12 years, and this is another big step forward for a community that needs more recreational opportunities. We will now have a mini sports complex on this side of the river, and residents are going to use it quite a bit.”
Manuel said Harold Scott Rousell Park on Castle Drive in Edgard also has a basketball court, but it is not covered. He said some of the parish recreational teams use that court for practice, but they get hindered when the weather is bad.
“This gives residents another outlet for activity,” Manuel said. “One that is covered and protected from the rain.”
Manuel said the covered court does not spell the end for improvements at the park. He said the parish is also working to add some playground equipment at the complex at some point in the near future.