Event to jump-start converting Horse Farm into park
LAFAYETTE — A $1,000-per-couple gala is set for Oct. 25 at the 100-acre Horse Farm in an effort to jump-start the fundraising campaign to transform the Johnston Street property into a central park for the city.
“It’s a fairly expensive fundraiser, but it’s an expensive proposition for Lafayette,” City-Parish President Joey Durel said.
Durel also announced that the Horse Farm will be open to the public for a free event on Oct. 27 to give residents an opportunity to tour the property that city-parish government purchased from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in July.
Fundraising will not be a focus of the Oct. 27 event — called “Howdy to the Horse Farm” — but Durel said there will likely be a small fundraising component, perhaps T-shirts sales and donation jars.
“I want people who can’t give the thousands of dollars to still have ownership in that property,” he said.
City-parish government purchased the Horse Farm with public dollars, but the park is set to be developed with private donations raised through the Community Foundation of Acadiana, a philanthropy group.
The goal of the fundraiser next month is to raise $500,000 to launch a campaign that Durel said will need to raise upward of $20 million to develop the park and set up an endowment to pay for upkeep in future years.
Still under discussion is who will oversee the creation and long-term management of the park.
Any arrangement for the development of the publicly owned property will need the approval of the City-Parish Council.
Durel has said he envisions an appointed oversight board separate from city-parish government and that the Community Foundation of Acadiana will likely play a key role in appointing that board.
The idea of creating a central park at the Horse Farm had its origins about seven years ago, when former ULL President Ray Authement proposed exchanging some of the property with commercial developers for land closer to the university’s main campus.
That plan was abandoned in the face of community opposition, but the debate over the property helped spawn the idea of using the undeveloped 100-acre tract for a park.
City-parish government, ULL and the Community Foundation of Acadiana announced in 2009 that an anonymous donor was considering buying the property from ULL and allowing it to become a public park.
The donor backed out, but Durel then pushed a plan to have city-parish government purchase property.
The deal, approved by the council in July, called for city-parish government to pay ULL $5.8 million and trade the university an 8-acre city park that is adjacent to the school’s main campus.
The combine value of the cash payment and the property is $6.6 million.
There are no firm plans for what the new park might look like, but the deal with ULL stipulated that the property be developed as a “passive” park — gardens, walking paths and picnic areas rather than tennis courts and sports fields.
For more information on the fundraiser, visit http://cfacadiana.org/durel.