Fun for All: Construction projects offer locals variety of choices from sports parks to pavilions

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Webre applauds passage of Lafourche Parish jail tax
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Ah, the joys of being a kid.

You remember – it was that life where ball fields, parks, swing sets, jungle gyms were all that there was for one to worry about in the world.

In Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, 2014 appears to have been a great year to channel one’s inner youth as countless projects have sprouted up in the area with several more on tap for the next 12 months.

Local officials tout the projects show parish government’s commitment to the youth and an emphasis on quality of life for all people.

Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said this past fall that it shows our area is diverse – not as dependent solely on oil and gas as some might think.

“There are so many things going on right now,” Claudet said. “It’s an exciting time, truly. We’re blessed to be a part of it all.”

Laftourche projects keep work churning

In Lafourche Parish, recreational projects have been moving at a lightning pace in 2014 with no end in sight for the future.

In the past 12 months, the parish completed the highly anticipated Leeville Boat Launch – the only launch free for the public in the coastal town’s fertile fishing waters.

The launch has been highly successful and well-populated since opening, according to Councilman Daniel Lorraine, who represents that area.

“It’s a great thing,” he said. “It’s great for those people and this entire area.”

Lafourche also completed a $220,000 project at Golden Meadow’s Oakridge Park in 2014 to build a pavilion over the park’s basketball goals.

About 10 minutes up La. Highway 1, work has started at the Cut Off Youth Center on pool and building/facility repairs and painting. The lights at the bantam football fields in Larose were as bright as ever in recent weeks after repairs were done to fix damage done in Hurricane Isaac.

“When you pass at night, you can see all the lights,” Lafourche Recreation Manager Jennifer Dufrene said. “It’s very bright now.”

“On the bantam field, it looks cool,” Lafourche Deputy Community Services Director Reggie Bagala added. “Those kids are really going to need sunglasses to play football. It looks nice.”

In Lockport, Lafourche was able to elevate the town’s Nature Trail Boardwalk, while demolishing its pool – filling it to ground level.

Bagala said he knows the newly built projects are worth it because once built, they are being heavily used.

“These are all great things because it means people are using them,” Bagala said. “They’re beating them up, and that’s OK. That means they’re using them like crazy, and we’re going to try and repair them as fast as they can put the wear and tear on them.”

With a successful 2014 in tow, Lafourche also has big plans for 2015 in terms of recreational facilities.

In Larose, work is scheduled to begin at the Larose Civic Center for facility repairs, a concession stand/park upgrades and tennis court repairs.

In the northern portion of the parish, plans are under way to add playground equipment to parks in Kraemer, Chocktaw, Thibodaux and Bayou Blue.

Bayou Blue is also expected to get a $220,000 water/splash park in before the summer, as well as a walking track.

In Thibodaux, bids are out on a project that would add a pair of turf baseball fields to Heroes Park – a project that officials hope can be completed before the summer baseball season begins.

“This thing is going to be really neat,” Bagala said of the turf fields. “It’s going to be like the arc on the whole infield is going to be turfed so they can play minus lightning in the rain. … It’s going to be drained just like a regular football turf field, and it’s going to have a long life. There aren’t very many around like it in South Louisiana.”

On the water, Bagala and Dufrene said boat launches in Golden Meadow, Theriot, Chackbay and Kraemer will get a combined $400,000 in facelifts in 2015.

A skate park has also been planned for Oakridge Park in Golden Meadow, and that, too, may be completed before 2015 is up.

Terrebonne Eyes Big Prize

While Lafourche pushes forward on an array of projects, Terrebonne is fishing to complete the proverbial big kahuna.

The 2014 year marked the beginning of construction on the parish’s proposed ‘Field of Dreams’ project – a multi-million dollar facility that will feature softball, baseball and soccer fields, in addition to a gymnasium, dog park, Frisbee golf, canoeing and countless other features.

This past fall, Phase 1-A of the project got under way, which included clearing land to begin putting the fields in place. Other segments of Phase 1-A include drainage and infrastructure work.

The first fields within the park may be ready to go by this spring, and the plan is to build the $24 million multi-sport park bit by bit.

It may take a while, but once done, senior planner Chris Pulaski said Houma will be among the state’s leaders in recreation.

“You look around you, and there are kids skating in parking lots and there are bicyclists on major roadways,” he said. “The baseball, softball and soccer complexes – everything’s just scattered around (Terrebonne). There’s no consolidated, concise place that has everything. This will have everything.”

The lure of completing the park will be the tourism dollars that it should generate through tournaments, which attract tourists into the area – which benefits hotels, restaurants and the economy.

Those benefits will easily make back the $24 million cost, according to Pulaski, who said that everyone benefits from the park’s completion.

“This thing will pay for itself,” he said.

While the Field of Dreams inches closer, Terrebonne also took steps to possibly turf its football fields in the future. After strong summer thundershowers battered and dampened Terrebonne High School’s football field, School Superintendent Philip Martin announced in October that he would study the costs and benefits of laying the carpet on the parish’s fields. He presented his report, and it is not yet known whether movement will be made because of its steep cost.

But several supporters say that they believe the school system has the means to raise the money if they choose to do so.

After the rain washed out Terrebonne and forced the Tigers to move a home football game, the school board sodded the Tigers’ field – a project that cost about $10,000.

In terms of recreation participation, Terrebonne Parish Recreation Director Sterling Washington said numbers are up all across TPR’s many sporting programs.

He said that adult league participation has become more popular as well, as more and more people try and stay involved in competitive activities older in life.

“Our kids programs always do well,” Washington said. “That’s become somewhat of a given. But our adult programs have shown increased growth, as well. That’s something we’re very excited and happy about.

“We just want to service the community and help give people opportunities.

“For the kids, we want to teach them life lessons through sports. For the adults, we want to help them stay in shape and healthy. It’s a win-win for us all,” Washington said.