LAPLACE - The St. John the Baptist Parish Parks and Recreation Department presented a draft of the master plan for the area public parks and boat launches at a public meeting on Monday at Regala Gym in Reserve.
The meeting primarily addressed the parks on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The master plan provided a comprehensive list of potential new facilities and improvements to existing facilities. Residents were invited to review the preliminary plans and provide feedback before completion. The plans for each park and boat launch were presented on boards and reviewed in a PowerPoint presentation.
Parish President Natalie Robottom addressed the small crowd, saying St. John Parish has a chance to make the proposed improvements because of a recently passed millage that supports recreational growth. Robottom also said that the master plan is key to gaining sponsorship for the projects by local industries, allowing parish representatives to approach local businesses and have them choose specific improvements they would like to fund.
“For the first time in St. John’s history, last April a millage was passed that supports recreation. St. John has never done that. In fact, it voted it down several times before it recently passed, which is huge. So there’s about an $800,000 increase in what is dedicated toward recreation,” she said. “With this recurring funding source, each year we’re planning to schedule the maintenance and make sure all of the existing facilities are upgraded and improved to the point where we can keep them maintained. Without dollars, a lot of (the parks) have deteriorated. Our goal is to be able to make improvements to our parks throughout the parish.”
Robottom also addressed residents’ complaints about vandalism, saying that many of the parks will have surveillance systems installed.
Based on the master plan, Regala Park will see the largest amount of change. The proposed improvements to the existing facilities will include the demolition of the tennis and racquetball courts, various updates to the volleyball court, baseball fields, parking lot, walking trail and swimming pool, fresh paint for the gazebos and new lights for the walking trail. New additions will include a skate park, misting station and a small concession stand. Drainage problems will also be addressed.
Upgrades for Highway 51 Park will include new paving for its parking lots, sidewalk improvements, a new play set for the playground and a refurbished restroom. The park will also get several new fitness stations, gazebos, a parking lot and a boardwalk for the pond.
Cambridge Park will receive a new parking lot, volleyball court and restroom building. Updates to existing facilities will include a remade putting green, restriped basketball court, mended fences and new playground equipment.
Most of the work proposed for Greenwood Park will deal with upgrading existing facilities: upgrades will be made to the playground and swing set, while the seesaw and rocking horse riders will be removed. The shuffleboard and tennis courts will receive restriping as well. New additions will include a fitness station and accessible playground.
At Ezekial Jackson Park, improvements will be made to the existing basketball court, baseball field and concession stand. Fitness stations and a playground will be added. The slide, seesaw, merry-go-round and monkey bars will be removed. A horseshoe area, fitness station, parking lot and volleyball court will be added, along with improvements to the jogging path and basketball court.
Stephanie C. Wilking and Belle Pointe parks will both receive new gazebos and improvements to the existing playgrounds. Belle Pointe park will also get a new fitness station and horseshoe area.
St. John resident Dwayne Lennox, 41, said it is important to put money into recreation to keep children off of the streets and out of trouble.
“The kids are our future, so if we can actually set things in place and keep them from falling victim to the streets, I’m with it. It kept us from being part of the negatives in society.”
A second meeting will be held this evening at 6 p.m. at the West Bank Community Center in Edgard. It will focus on west bank facilities, Harold Scott Roussell Park, Wallace Bridge Park and the West Bank Recreational Complex.