Livingston — Families in Albany may finally get their first community park, thanks to a pair of dogged high school students.
Earlier this year, Jasmine Hendry and Nipun Wadhwa, now juniors at Albany High and members of their class senate, were canvassing the town to collect signatures in support of a new park. By chance, they happened upon the home of Mayor Gene Glascock, who was impressed with their plans.
“They made the council look like we weren’t doing our jobs,” he joked.
Hendry’s ambitious design calls for a walking trail, playground equipment for different age groups, a picnic area, restrooms and maybe even a sand volleyball court.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking,” she said. “We decided to go all in.”
Town officials liked her ideas but didn’t have any land for the project. So, they made a deal: If the high schoolers could find a plot, Albany leaders would help them look for funding.
Hendry called Sid Kinchen, the local School Board representative, and the students showed up at his house with a bulletin board full of plans and ideas, he recalled. Kinchen found some wooded land near their own high school owned but unused by the school system.
As word of the project got around, a parish official asked Kinchen if the plans of two teenagers were above board.
“Oh yeah, it’s the real deal,” he responded.
Thursday evening, Wadhwa watched a land transfer between two government entities that signals the beginning of the next phase of what began as a high school student government project.
The Livingston Parish School Board agreed to donate 1.3 acres to the town of Albany to build a park.
The town has five years to begin construction, or the rights will revert to the school system. But Kinchen hopes to complete some work by the time Hendry and Wadhwa graduate in 2017.
“It was a pretty big deal for a couple of high school kids,” Kinchen remarked.
Glascock said the town is now on the hunt for grant money to transform the woods into a park, and he said Albany officials will include the students in the design.
Hendry expressed interest in working with a nonprofit that helps build playgrounds using volunteers from the community, to get the people of Albany involved in their new park.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.