Architect touts Donaldsonville spray park

Ascension Parish officials are hoping to launch the first phase of a $10 million renovation of the South Louisiana Fairgrounds within the next year.

Eric Poché, a landscape architect with the Baton Rouge design firm SJB Group, said at a community meeting Tuesday night that a $250,000 spray park was expected to be in the parish’s 2013-14 budget.

“The parish wanted to do something activity-wise that would have a good impact from the get-go,” Poché said.

The renovated fairgrounds, off La. 3089, would highlight the existing baseball complex and feature three new softball fields, outdoor basketball courts, a skate park, children’s soccer/football fields, playground, spray park, lake, walking track and upgraded parking, multi-purpose buildings, concessions and restrooms.

Poché said he wanted to present the design he has been working on for several months and solicit feedback from the public. He said his current master plan for the site could change “at the drop of the hat” if necessary.

The first phase likely would include renovated parking for better access into the fairgrounds and the lake, which will be used as a detention pond in conjunction with the spray park, he said.

Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph said the timetable for completion of the renovations likely will be based on available funding. Currently, there is no dedicated funding for recreation in the parish.

“There’s not really a lot of extra money to do capital improvement projects,” said Poché, a Gonzales native who cited the lack of recreation money as one of the “biggest problems in the parish.”

Joseph said the parish’s recreation department is considering a property tax that would generate $5 million per year specifically for recreation. He said he hopes it could be on the ballot by November but added, “we haven’t worked out all the details.”

“If that passes, that’s how fast this project goes,” Joseph said.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan Sr. asked parish officials how many mills the property tax would consist of and if it would be limited to Donaldsonville only.

Joseph said the proposed property tax would be a parishwide tax that also would lead to recreational improvements at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

“It’s a plan, but we all gotta work together to make it a reality,” Joseph said.