St. Charles Herald-Guide

Parish needs larger parks, study says

Jonathan Menard - August 24, 2012

St. Charles Parish should focus on providing large-scale, strategically located community parks while eliminating some undersized, underutilized recreational sites in neighborhoods, according to a draft of the Parks and Recreation Department master plan.

Currently, the park system includes 50 sites that encompass 317 acres of land. Of these, 28 are owned by the parish and 22 are leased from St. Charles Parish Public Schools, local civic organizations, private companies and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish maintains all of the facilities it leases.

The park system in St. Charles dwarfs other parishes nearby. St. James has seven sites, while Ascension Parish, which has more than twice the population of St. Charles, has 17 park sites.

While the majority of the parkland owned by the parish has been developed to some extent, the 9-acre Ashton Plantation site in Luling, the small South Destrehan and Panther Run sites in Destrehan and the 3-acre site in Montz are considered underdeveloped.

Based on current needs, the master plan calls for the parish to identify at least one site to develop 10 to 12 acres of park land devoted to community recreation. Current opportunities include the development of the Ashton property in Luling, expansion of the East Bank Bridge Park and expansion of IMTT Park. According to the master plan, the parish will eventually require four to five additional large (10 plus acres) community parks.

To achieve an integrated system of connected community parks and open spaces, the master plan also calls for the creation of a network of pedestrian and bicycle paths and trails. However, forming such a network will be challenging because the only major trails that exist today are levee paths.

Other recommendations include instituting a citizen advisory board to guide recreational planning decisions, as well as coming up with a system to accurately track facilities usage. The report identifies the parish’s biggest challenge as ensuring that all parks are integrated into a system that provides equitable recreational access to all residents.

The public is invited to participate in public input meetings from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28 at the East Regional Library, 160 W. Campus Drive in Destrehan; or 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the West Regional Library, 105 Lakewood Drive in Luling. The document will guide recreational opportunities in the parish over the next 20 years.

"This will be an opportunity for our residents to see what has been created through their input and to continue to influence the process," St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation Director Duane Foret said. "In the end, this will make a big impact in our community as it will guide our path to the future of St. Charles Parish recreation."

Foret said his department has already been working on making improvements called for in the draft, including the installation of additional playground equipment, expanding walking and bike trails, establishing new parks where acreage deficiencies were found and assisting in planning a new parish-owned gym space in the Edward Dufresne Community Center, now under construction in Luling.

The document may be viewed and downloaded by visiting and clicking on ‘Recreation Master Plan.’ Online comments may be submitted through a form on the site. The report is also available for review at the East and West Regional St. Charles Parish libraries.