Public gets more chances to air ideas on Lafayette ‘Horse Farm’ park

LAFAYETTE — The next step in the lengthy planning process for a park at the Horse Farm will begin this week with a third round of public meetings for residents to sound off on the future of the 100-acre Johnston Street site.

The first two series of public forums outlined the community’s goals for the park. Residents talked of the specific features and types of activities they want to see at the Horse Farm.

Elizabeth “EB” Brooks, Lafayette Central Park’s director of planning and design, said project organizers have since created a list of programming priorities based on public input.

The next step is for forum attendees to weigh in on the “character and feel” of the park, Brooks said, and they will be aided in part by photos of other parks from around the world.

“Now that we’ve determined what the public wants, we’re taking the top items off that list and saying, ‘This is an area where we could put X,’ whether it’s a garden or great lawn or whatever it may be,” said Dave Calhoun, Lafayette Central Park executive director.

One of the top priorities is continuing the farmers market that already takes place at the Horse Farm every Saturday, Brooks said, as well as a small amphitheater space for live performances, gardens, trails and a water feature.

The public also has indicated strong support for renaturalizing the concrete coulee that runs through the 100-acre site.

“People see that as kind of the first obstacle to making this a world-class park,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of an eyesore; essentially, it’s a concrete ditch.”

The third round of meetings will also detail two conceptualized master plans for the park and ask residents to offer input on both.

Calhoun said one key factor in the planning process is striking a balance between development and preserving the land’s natural appeal.

Children’s play areas, for example, likely will not be standard “plastic jungle gyms,” Brooks said, but perhaps “a cool innovative playground space that we don’t have here in Lafayette yet.”

“You want to develop it and show people what it can offer, but you don’t want to overdevelop,” Calhoun said.

Lafayette Central Park, the nonprofit hired by Lafayette city-parish government to oversee the Horse Farm’s development, aims to raise $30 million in private funds for the project.

Of that $30 million, half will be reserved for maintenance and future programming, Calhoun said.

“Often you see projects that start off as great projects, but over the years, it runs down because there’s not money to maintain it,” Calhoun said. “Our board says we build it, it’ll be world class, and it’ll be maintained.”

Calhoun said he expects fundraising efforts to kick off in late April or early May when the park’s conceptual master plan is more complete.

“It’s difficult to try and sell something without having something tangible to show,” Calhoun said. “We have a beautiful piece of property that everyone understands has a great value, but the reality is, until we see the master design or certainly a pretty close concept, it’s hard for people to visualize.”

The planning process will include another round of public workshops in the spring before the master plan is presented to the Lafayette Central Park board for approval. Calhoun said he expects the master plan to go before the Lafayette City-Parish Council for approval in June.

The schedule for the third round of public workshops is:

MARCH 10: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Heymann Center Ballroom.

MARCH 11: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rosa Parks Transportation Center.

MARCH 11: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

MARCH 12: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., South Regional Library.

MARCH 12: Petroleum Club.

MARCH 13: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., South Regional Library.