Managing Lacombe’s rec area a busy job

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --  Scott Simpher, director of St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 4 at the new exercise station in John Davis Park in Lacombe. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Scott Simpher, director of St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 4 at the new exercise station in John Davis Park in Lacombe.

Assuming the helm of a steadily growing recreation district in St. Tammany Parish can be a daunting task. That’s because as the north shore’s population continues to swell, there is an ever-increasing number of children and adults who are looking for a place to play, to compete or simply to relax.

Scott Simpher is not the least bit frazzled by the duty at hand, however. As the new director of St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 4, which serves the greater Lacombe area, he practically has had a seamless transition to the director’s helm since taking over April 1 for retired Willie “Coach” Jeter.

A recent visit to Lacombe’s John Davis Park, where the recreation district offices are housed, proved as much. There was an abundance of construction taking place — a sign that the district will not miss a beat as the Lacombe area continues to grow. And the presence of dozens of children and parents in the park’s gymnasium on a warm July morning was further proof that John Davis Park is a happening place, regardless of the time or date.

Simpher, 50, came to Lacombe via recent recreation-based jobs on the East Bank and West Bank of Jefferson Parish. For several years prior, he had been active in recreation management in south Florida. A husband and father, Simpher graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri. He brings 23 years of recreation experience to the Lacombe gig.

Though Lacombe is an unincorporated community on the map, the general area has seen its share of growth in recent years. Simpher said it’s no small task to cater to the hundreds of district residents who rely upon him, his staff and the area’s public facilities for a means of recreation.

Recreation District 4 maintains John Davis Park and its gymnasium, as well as the Main Street Boat Launch in downtown Lacombe. The district also operates another boat launch off Lake Road near Lake Pontchartrain, a field at Chahta-Ima Elementary where district residents play football, and three ball fields at Keller Park used for other sports. A new playground apparatus, as well as new exercise equipment, recently was added at the main park facility at John Davis. The district also has use of the old St. Tammany Parish Library on St. Mary Street for meeting space.

Simpher said the goal is to reach out to not only the district’s youth via children’s sports, but to the community as a whole by means of aerobics classes, swimming, cultural growth programs and more.

“We’re trying to do some really comprehensive programming,” Simpher said. “We’re trying to incorporate the kids and the adults. We have an after-school program that’s not only about sports, but about reading and study time. We’re blowing out every program we can to entice more and more people to the district. We’re also looking at park development. We want to create facilities.”

The major thrust for potential growth could come on a piece of property just south of U.S. 190 and adjacent to the Main Street Boat Launch and Bayou Lacombe.

The parcel of land was donated to the parish and subsequently the district, with the goal of creating public swim areas, pavilions, picnic areas, an outdoors education area and more, Simpher said.

While that vision could take a few years to come to fruition, Simpher said it’s just part of a proactive plan to continue growing recreation opportunities for residents of the Lacombe area.

“It’s been a great experience here so far,” he said. “We thought we’d come in and start a variety of programs and there were good things here before too. I came in new and it’s terrific. Everything we touch has been working well. People in Lacombe are just eating it up. It’s funny because it is a unique place. It’s little, but it’s vibrant. Everyone seems to be taking advantage of the opportunities.”

And that makes Simpher extremely happy.

“It never slows down around here,” he said. “And that’s OK. That’s why we’re here.”

For more information on St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 4, call (985) 882-7782 or go online to www.lacomberecdistrict4.org.

Andrew Canulette covers sports and leisure activities for the St. Tammany Advocate. To reach him, send email to acanulette@charter.net.