Fundraising to begin for Lafayette Central Park project construction

The master plan for Lafayette Central Park includes a wish list from thousands of residents of what they want to see developed on the 100-acre former Horse Farm property — walking and biking trails, idyllic ravines and ponds, wide-open lawn space, an outdoor pavilion for concerts and plays, and treehouses.

Now, it’s the community’s turn to help turn the plan into reality as fundraising begins to jump-start construction later this year, park organizers told the Acadiana Press Club on Monday.

The first phase of construction could begin this fall — pending fundraising efforts, said David Calhoun, executive director of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit organization created to manage the park. Lafayette Consolidated Government owns the property and signed a 99-year lease agreement with Lafayette Central Park Inc. to oversee the park’s development, fundraising and management. That agreement goes into effect when ground is broken on the project, Calhoun said.

A formal fundraising campaign likely won’t get underway until September to raise the estimated $32 million needed for the first phase of the park’s development, Calhoun said. An estimated $15 million is for the construction; another $15 million will remain in escrow for the park’s maintenance; and $2 million is for associated construction costs.

The group was waiting to start a formal fundraising campaign until final approval of the master plan, which didn’t come from the Lafayette City-Parish Council until last month, said Elizabeth “E.B.” Brooks, planning and design director for Lafayette Central Park Inc.

“We didn’t want to make any big asks until we got (the plan) approved,” Brooks said.

The park has received donations already, but Calhoun said he would not disclose any dollar amount raised so far and didn’t plan to release the information in the future so as not to deter any donors from stepping up to contribute.

While he mentioned the possibility of $1 million donations, Calhoun said a major goal of the fundraising effort is for as many residents to give what they can.

“We want people to say, ‘I helped build this park,’ ” Calhoun said. “This is a community park.”

One fundraising campaign already underway is the Buy a Board option that enables people to donate $100 and sponsor a board on the park’s boardwalk in their family’s or business’ name. So far, that campaign has raised more than $20,000, Brooks said. Events, such as May’s Party in the Park, also will help raise funds, she said.

She added that the community will have a chance to give back in other ways, such as volunteering to clear out and clean up areas under development.

“We want to get the public physically engaged in the park,” she said.

Some of the features in the master plan include: 1-mile and 1.5-mile trail loops, ponds, a children’s discovery garden, an outdoor pavilion, treehouses, a dog park, a permanent building for the farmers market and a building for the Lafayette Police Department’s mounted police program.

Calhoun said the first phase of construction involves building the infrastructure for the park, including a parking lot, the walking trails and construction of the ponds. Buildings for the Police Department and farmers market also will be part of the first phase. Calhoun said the scope of the first phase depends upon how much funding is available.

Currently, the park is open to the public on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings for the farmers market. Brooks said the plan is for the park to remain open during construction, though parts of the property may be off limits pending which area is under development.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.