Which way to the kayak launch? Hopefully not Hwy 30.


wade

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.


Comments

  1. Missy Jandura says:

    2million out of. 58million to the parish seat in donaldsonville?

  2. I very seldom agree with Wade but he hit the nail on the head here..They should call this project MORE TAXES FOR MORE TRAFFIC. and Ms Jandura..I agree with you also, as usual the parish is screwing the people of Donaldsonville.

  3. Ray Hall says:

    If you can't pay more taxes do like I did take two Jobs. You wont have the time to go to parks. It took two jobs to pay my house note and taxes, and I'm still paying.

  4. Ray Hall says:

    NO MORE TAXES.

  5. Richard Acardo says:

    If you Want More Traffic Move To Houston, NOW!
    If you Need More Sports Fields Use The Ones In Baton Rouge, NOW!
    If you Want To Enjoy The Water Ways Buy A Motor Boat, NOW!
    If you Are Inclined To Be Artsy Take A Trip To Broadway, NOW!
    If you Want To Spend Your Money On More Taxes Wisely Widen Hwy 30, NOW!
    If you Want Less Traffic Widen Hwy 30, NOW!
    If you Want A Better Quality Of Life Win The Lottery…NEVER!!!

  6. I don't mind paying more taxes IF I actually get some benefits out of it. I've traveled to many towns/cities that have plenty of useful items such as hike and bike trails, neighborhood trails, inter-connecting trails from neighborhoods to retail areas, parks, green spare areas and more.

    These people need to travel to Austin, TX and surrounding towns and see just how nice of rec areas we could be enjoying here. The issue here in Louisiana is many times a plan is presented, tax is voted on, passed and then the money is funneled to other projects. Another issue here is nothing is maintained after the project is completed. Something is built and that's it. Grass doesn't get mowed. Something breaks and it stays that way.

    I've had several people come to visit here in Ascension and there are amazed that with all the new neighborhoods and expensive houses that there are hardly and parks, dog parks, bike lanes, sidewalks, green space, etc. Another big issue is litter but we can save that topic for another time.Kayak on the waterways in Ascension and count the bottles, cans and other trash floating around.

  7. Chin Music says:

    The people voted no to the purchase of Lamar Dixon and yet we are expected to pay pay pay. It’s like having a teen who asks their parents for a car. The parents vote no. The teen somehow manages to obtain the money to purchase a car by asking all his buddies to chip in, and in return, giving his buddies free rides. Then the teen goes back and asks the parents for gas money, insurance, tires, blinging rims, and a wack sound system. Are the parents obligated?

    Ascension was growing under natural circumstances but really exploded out of necessity after the last major 4 hurricanes. The population decreased so much in our lower coastal areas that we lost a US congressional seat (dist 3). Louisiana has one of the lowest growth rates of population and one of the highest rates of retention. Where do you think the people moved? It’s no different than when the Spanish settlers of Galvez moved to Spanish town Baton Rouge – to get to higher ground. People don’t move away from Louisiana, they move around within Louisiana.

    The underlying reason behind the big push for recreation is to fall in line with “livable – walkable communities”. It’s to one day be like Austin. Having a nice tan looks good now, later you’ll pay the price.

    I thought that one of of the perks of having a kayak was to be able to launch from anywhere? The majority of the parish leadership is throwing curve balls. Give them some chin music at the ballot box.

  8. Ray Hall says:

    What we don't have you can go to Baton Rouge or New Orleans. There Less then an hour away. We need Better Streets and Drainage.

  9. Cliff Haydel says:

    Well said Wade !

    I work on Hwy 30 and live on Hwy 621 ( approx 5 miles ) which results in a 30-45 minute drive home !

    Fix the ESSENTIALS and quality of life will come ! (But of course the essentials don’t bring money to the pocket padders )

  10. Chuck Sheets says:

    As a native Ascension resident, I am voting no on this project. WOuld I love better fields for my kids to play baseball on? Yes. However, I do not mind the 35 minute drive to Baton Rouge for them to play. I am 41 years old and as far back as I can remember we have the SAME ROADS as then. The only thing that changed was a few turning lanes here and there. But don’t run off the road a little bit because you will be in the ditch. The main thing I ask is this, why must everything that people want to “upgrade” our community has to be pais by the property owners of Ascension. Are we the ONLY ONES that would use these facilities? If you all are going to propose a new tax then propose a sales tax. Why not? Oh, because there is a large voting body out there that does not own property or are homestead exempt and hence, dont pay property tax. So, if it doesnt affect their wallet then its ok to vote yes on it. BUT put it as a sales tax where they would have to pay more then the outcome doesnt look too good huh? For the ones that moved into our rural community from the big city….why did you move here? To get away from the big city? If you moved here to get away from the big city then enjoy our rural lifestyles. If you want all the bells and whistles that the big city offers then maybe you shouldnt have moved. I am not trying to bash those that moved here but we liked our rural way of living. So why make me pay to make you happy? I for one will be one voting NO on this tax increase proposal.

  11. cajungirl says:

    FINALLY, Wade gets what many of us have been screaming about for years. STOP all the publicity stunts for votes and do some work. Fix what ails Ascension; roads, traffic and drainage. STOP voting into office these do nothings who want to pat themselves on the back and benefit their friends, not the people of Ascension parish. NO MORE!!

  12. I do think we need better options for recreation for both kids and adults. I dont think all the ideas pitched were great options, but some of the ideas do have my full support. I dont want to drive an hour to New Orleans nor Baton Rouge to watch my kids play baseball or to go for a walk. The problems on HWY 30 should be addressed anyway possible, but holding recreation hostage and not moving Ascension forward is not the answer. Our rural way of living should not exclude parks and bike paths or proper baseball fields. I have lived in Ascension for over 40 years and the parks I played on as a kid are still the ones my kids play on. They have not seen much improvement in 25 years. You want to improve the roads, drainage, traffic, and infrastructure, but dont want to improve the recreation aspect. I would like to see both done. I think we can do better.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Recreation should not come before infrastructure! It sounds like the same old story – build, build and don't worry about the roads or the high volume of traffic we deal with everyday. Roads should be a priority before Parks are even considered. It seems that our Officals always want "to put the horse before the cart".

  14. B.t. Guedry says:

    The center lane on Highway 30 needs to be used as a 2nd lane from 4pm to 6pm and not a turning lane between the interstate and Hwy 73. Nobody is turning! Everybody wants to get home. This is something that can be done now with a few signs to alleviate this traffic nightmare.

  15. Bobby Hoyt says:

    well said mr chin music. great name by the way. in no way do i want to pay a single dollar toward anything in the realm of recreation until they stop this parish from being a swampy mudhole in the event of a day of rain.