Parish cuts ribbon on park upgrades that include turf fields, new pickleball and tennis courts

Major improvements have been made to the West Bank Bridge Park and now those upgrades are on full display for the public.

On Thursday, St. Charles Parish cut the ribbon to commemorate the new-look park and its upgrades, which came via St. Charles Parish’s Phase I Revitalization Project.

“When we came in, one of our original goals was to make upgrades to this park,” said St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell, who noted the overhaul marks the first major upgrade the park has seen since the early 1990s, when the park was built. “It was time. Thirty-plus years. It’s served the parish well. This is the next phase of the future with where we want to be with parks and recreation … it’s incredible to see this come to life.”

Alissa Cavaretta, the assistant director of the parish’s parks and recreation department, called Dow’s role in the project pivotal, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. She noted Dow’s support ensured the park’s resilience for the future, exemplified by their contribution of turf fields, and also called the project as a whole “a remarkable testament to the strength of community collaboration.”

Phase I of the West Bank Bridge Park Improvements commenced in August 2023. The eight-month revitalization effort included the construction of new synthetic turf infields at Field 1 and Field 2, complemented by fresh grass outfields with a modern irrigation system. The project also included updates to fencing, backstops and dugouts. In addition to the baseball fields, the Department of Parks and Recreation installed four pickleball courts, upgraded its two tennis courts and enhanced lighting with new poles and LED fixtures across the project area.

“This park is the main park that people see when they come to our parish, whether it’s the Alligator Festival or a ball tournament … we ought to be putting our best foot forward and showing them what St. Charles Parish is all about, how we value Parks and Recreation and how we utilize a space adjacent to a bridge that’s really the symbol of our parish,” Jewell said.

Jewell said that later this year, plans are to begin accepting bids for the project of renovating the East Bank Bridge Park to match the changes on the West Bank side.

Duane Foret, parks and recreation director, said the overhaul of the more than 35- year- old facility will be a welcome one for residents who visit, as well as visitors from out of town.

“We wanted something where our residents would feel our facilities were up to par with others around the state and around the country,” Foret said. “With the help of our many partners, we were able to turf the fields at fields one and two at the West Bank Bridge Park, which is the older side of the facility. We’ve added new fencing, new dugouts and the amenities in the dugouts are very, very nice – the bench seating, the bat closet and helmet closet … we have the brick backstop and the vinyl coated fencing.”

Foret added there are new nets, wireless scoreboards and outfield sod at the newly turfed fields.

“I can’t put into words what this really means for our community, but to look out at it, the picture really says a thousand words,” Foret said.

Both Foret and Jewell pointed to the turf as something that will make the grounds easier to maintain.

“One of the biggest challenges in parks and recreation is maintaining all of the acreage … the more it’s used, the more it needs TLC,” said Jewell. “This allows for more focus on other areas and a chance (for parks and recreation) to get out to the surrounding parks more, once this is complete.”

Jewell said there is excitement around the debut of the pickleball courts as well.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in the country,” Jewell said. “It allows people who used to play tennis and can’t anymore the opportunity to continue playing a sport similar to what they love. And because it’s a little less impact, it allows people who maybe aren’t as athletic and people of all ages to get in and play.”

While fields one and two are primarily used for baseball and softball, respectively, the fields can now be used interchangeably, with each field equipped for the park’s removeable baseball mounds to be utilized.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think any amenity here is going untouched,” Jewell said.

Hurricane Ida left the bridge park heavily damaged and following the storm, the parish had state, parish and insurance funds to go toward the project. But an infusion of private money via Dow, Jewell said, was critical to the park being upgraded to its fullest potential.

“I went to Dow and gave them the vision of what I was looking for, and they came back and said ‘yes, we want to help make that happen,’” Jewell said. “Without that initial injection of cash into this project, without Dow coming in, this would have looked different.”

 

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