LAFAYETTE — A new park at the 100-acre Horse Farm is one step closer to reality.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday approved a park master plan that calls for playgrounds, a carousel, ponds, pavilions, picnic areas, trails, gardens, an outdoor stage, a dog park and treehouses, among other things.
Work could begin in the fall on some elements, but the nonprofit group overseeing the building and funding of the park still must raise millions of dollars before dirt is turned.
It would take an estimated $60 million to $75 million for everything in the plan, but the work is expected to be done in phases, with the first round of construction pegged at about $15 million, said David Calhoun, executive director of Lafayette Central Park.
The nonprofit group leased the property from city-parish government, which acquired the property with the plan to build a park with private donations rather than government dollars.
Most of the questions from the council focused on how the group plans to raise the substantial sums needed for the project.
“Any way possible,” Calhoun said.
He declined to go into details about the fundraising strategy or how much has been pledged for the project but said “there is a very definite plan to raise money from major donors.”
City-Parish President Joey Durel said many potential donors are interested but want to see an approved plan before writing checks.
“There are people chomping at the bit to step up to the plate and do something,” Durel said.
The master plan approved Tuesday grew out a series of community forums earlier this year.
The council already had endorsed the general plan for the types of activities and features at the park, but the master plan shows on a map where different activities will take place and how much space will be devoted to different uses.
The designers worked from a blank slate, because the large tract off Johnston Street has never been developed.
“Very seldom in one’s lifetime do you have an opportunity like this where a 100-acre piece of property lies in the middle of your city,” Councilman Don Bertrand said.
The audience at Tuesday’s meeting overwhelmingly supported the plan: More than 20 people spoke in favor of it or submitted cards in support.
The council voted unanimously to approve the plan.
But there were concerns.
Catherine Abdalla, who lives near the planned park, asked the council and the nonprofit park group to consider security patrols, limited hours and controlled access to ensure safety.
“I believe the park is a wonderful plan. I’m just concerned about security,” she said.
Calhoun said he expects limited hours at the park and security will be on par with similar parks, though the details have not been finalized.
The first phase of the park could begin later this year and some parts could be complete by the end of next year, Elizabeth “EB” Brooks, Lafayette Central Park Director of Planning and Design, said earlier this week.
The Horse Farm property had been owned for years by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The City-Parish Council agreed in 2012 to pay UL-Lafayette $5.8 million for the property and to trade the university an 8-acre city park near the school’s main campus.
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