I’ve been hearing the phrase, “quality of life,” quite a bit lately since Ascension’s governing authority began considering a master recreation plan. I’ve attended no less than six meetings at which various recreation plans were discussed. My earliest recollection is a December 2013 Recreation Committee meeting where a plan was unveiled.
On June 19 Ascension’s Council voted 7-2 to place a ten-year, five mill ad valorem assessment on the ballot for November 4 to fund the plan. The millage would yield an estimated $58 million, roughly half of which would be devoted to local park upgrades and new construction while half goes to operations and maintenance.
The latest presentation, a (mercifully) scaled-down version, was made at Gonzales’ City Council meeting on Monday, August 14. Better Recreation NOW! (that’s what the plan is being called NOW!) was pitched by only three spokespersons. Four times that many spoke (some more than once) at the June 19 council meeting/pep rally.
The sales pitch is always the same, more and better recreation facilities will enhance the quality of life for Ascension’s residents. More and better recreation facilities will attract even more and better (more affluent anyway) young couples and their kids. All Ascension currently has to offer them is its highly-regarded public school system.
That I, a lifelong resident of Ascension, am being asked to pay for a newcomer’s enhanced quality of life is a bit perplexing to me, but let’s continue.
All local parks (except the ones in Gonzales) will receive needed upgrades. New recreational amenities will be added, too. More spray parks (4), more nature trails to walk and ride (horses and bikes), two dog parks, a shooting range, and access to the pristine waterways in the parish to go kayaking (2 kayak launches); the cost, $8.8 million.
I had no idea there were so many local kayak-paddling enthusiasts. It just sounds so hip. It never occurred to me before, but maybe I should take up kayaking.
More basketball/volleyball courts (6), more fields: baseball (7), softball (2), football (3) and soccer (7): more of everything…good…wholesome…American…for the kids. Better recreation, it seems, is the panacea to cure all that ails Ascension; it will prevent juvenile delinquency and combat childhood obesity. I’ve heard all these arguments.
It will even reduce traffic! (Seriously, the claim is made on the second page of Better Recreation NOW!’s brochure.)
All the new fields would be built at the Ascension Recreation Complex to be located “adjacent” to Lamar Dixon on 150 undeveloped acres already owned by the parish. If you want to raise the hackles of the Better Recreation NOW! crew, you need only refer to the complex “at” Lamar Dixon.
I know. I did some hackle-raising at the last two public meetings. I misspoke. It was an honest mistake.
Back in December the idea was to spend $18 million (out of a $25 million total) to fund the “Lamar Dixon Master Recreation Plan;” their title, not mine. In mid-May a $15 million multi-use facility was unveiled, to include a 780 seat performing arts theater at a cost of $6.7 million.
The latest plan calls for $8.6 million to build the Ascension Recreation Complex that will NOT be located at Lamar Dixon (although Better Recreation NOW! would expand and renovate the Lamar Dixon gym). I won’t quibble. $7.1 million would go toward the new performing arts theater, “place to be determined.”
$2.8 million is earmarked for a mini-recreation complex across the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville’s Fairgrounds. Factor in a $2.5 million Construction Contingency and $4.8 million in Engineering, Surveying, Testing and Administration and the Total Construction Costs total $31.8 million. That leaves $26.2 million of the ten-year’s worth of millage for maintenance and operation.
And you can have all of it if a majority of you vote for Better Recreation NOW! on November 4. The cost to you, the taxpayer?; a paltry $37.50 per year if your home is valued at $150,000; only $112.50 if you dwell in the opulence of a $300,000 palace. What’s another five mills amongst friends? Don’t you want to build a sense of community while increasing your property value?
Both would occur according to Better Recreation NOW!
Ironically, your millage could increase when your property is reassessed, but it’s a small price to pay to save on travel time to provide more time with family, encourage sports, performing arts and exercise. Plus, Better Recreation NOW! will generate business revenue from all the tournaments that will be held on all those new athletic fields that will NOT be located at Lamar Dixon.
“Enhances Quality of Life for Everyone;” feels good, like a recreation plan should.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it was beginning to make. My current plan to enhance my quality of life consists of one simple goal; never get stuck in traffic. It is rare that I fail to achieve my objective, extraordinary when you consider that I live and work (a second, overnight job) on Hwy 30 in Gonzales.
I would venture to guess that 99% of my life is lived within two miles of Hwy 30, as the crow flies.
Sometimes, though, traffic is unavoidable, and I failed to avoid Hwy 30 traffic on Tuesday, mere hours after I’d heard Better Recreation NOW!’s spiel for a sixth time. Traffic was backed up from Burnside past Purpera Rd when I tried to exit my subdivision at 4:45 pm on Tuesday.
There I sat. The vehicles in front of me never seemed to move. It was absolutely infuriating. This is no way to live, I thought. There must be a way to enhance my quality of life.
I took ten deep, calming breaths and my mind drifted back to Better Recreation NOW! Wouldn’t it be grand if I were paddling my kayak down one of Ascension’s pristine waterways?
But I don’t own a kayak…or a paddle. Well, Better Recreation NOW! promises those new spray parks, and nature trails, and a Boy Scout campground, and a shooting range, and a fishing pier with pond, and all those new fields. Surely, it has something to suit me.
Wait a minute. Not one of those quality of life enhancing measures is even planned for Gonzales, my home. Would I ever willingly choose to endure this traffic to enjoy any of these new amenities? Probably not.
Better Recreation NOW! sold itself to the City of Gonzales as a means to generate new revenue for local hotels, stores and restaurants when all those tournaments are hosted at Lamar Dixon, er, the Ascension Recreation Complex. Sorry.
The brochure cites the Allstate Sugar Bowl Super 60 basketball tournament held in New Orleans as an example. The Super 60 hosts “411 Teams, 4500+ Players and Families”, a “Minimum of 10,000 People” according to the brochure.
I must admit, I find the example far-fetched.
I am a fan of the arts and Better Recreation NOW! promises a new theater. Apparently, it’s anybody’s guess where the theater is going to be located. Until somebody tells me different, my guess is “near” (not “at” mind you) Lamar Dixon.
As a Gonzales resident, all I envision is more traffic on Hwy 30 which doesn’t enhance my quality of life one bit.
Back in December, Councilman Chris Loar, a stalwart supporter of parish recreation offered:
“I’ve heard it said that all these recreation projects are nice to have but they are not essential. I would disagree…These projects would enhance our quality of life in Ascension Parish and we should have more than the bare essentials.”
Maybe we should, but let’s take care of the essentials, bare or otherwise, first. Personally, I cannot support any measure that would put one more vehicle on Hwy 30 until the parish figures out how to reroute two.