DENHAM SPRINGS — The city’s Parks and Recreation District 3, which offers numerous and varied sports and fitness programs throughout the year, is now gearing up for organized leagues in baseball, softball, T-ball, soccer, flag football, adult coed soccer and summer camps while offering, on a regular basis, popular programs that run year-round.
PARDS Assistant Superintendent John Arbour said in a recent interview that the recreation district now serves thousands of patrons of all ages during a typical year. PARDS, which is about three decades old, seeks to fill a wide variety of services and recreational opportunities that the public has asked for, Arbour said.
“PARDS is important to our community because we provide a place where everyone is welcome to come and enjoy various sports leagues, fitness opportunities and other services such as use of our playgrounds, walking trails, swimming facilities and picnic pavilions. Young and old … many enjoy our facilities throughout the year,” Arbour said.
PARDS is supported financially through a property tax that generates about $4 million per year. These funds support the three parks managed by PARDS.
“We started with almost nothing, and today we have a great system that is enjoyed by many of our citizens,” he added.
The parks district employs 22 full-time workers and that staff is augmented by a large number of part-time employees who are utilized with summer programs and as umpires, officials and training specialists. During summers, teachers and college students are employed to assist with leagues and summer camps.
Three parks make up the PARDS system. The major facility is the sprawling North Park located on Eden Church Road. Included at North Park is a playground, golf driving range, track, walking trail, fishing pond, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, soccer fields and pavilions.
The Aqua PARDS Water Park and the Fitness and Aquatics Center also are located at the North Park campus. The 30,000-square-foot facility includes cardio and weight machines, facilities for group exercise classes, a Kids’ Zone, an air-conditioned basketball gym, and a six-lane indoor pool with zero-entry ramp where year-round and summer swim teams participate and swim lessons are given.
The PARDS L.M. Lockhart Park includes a community center, playground equipment, outdoor basketball courts and gymnasium and a walking trail.
South Park is a 60-acre family oriented park that offers a horse riding arena, outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts, playground equipment and pavilions.
Arbour said that while traditional sports leagues, especially those for young athletes, are at the heart of the PARDS organized sports effort, adult leagues are gaining in popularity. For instance, last year PARDS started offering an adult baseball league after a group of former college, high school and even some semipro baseball enthusiasts staged some games at a PARDS facility. From that, enough interest in adult baseball was in evidence to support a league season. Arbour said that Anthony Richard provided valuable help in establishing adult baseball.
Arbour said interest in different sports changes over the years. Soccer, he said, is now the most popular sport for children. Over the past several years, participation in youth soccer has grown by about 25 percent, Arbour said, describing this growth as unusual. Adult soccer also is growing in popularity and two seasons of adult coed soccer will be offered this year.
Youth summer camps also are very popular, according to Arbour. Registration for this year’s summer camps was conducted earlier this month and Arbour said that slots for the summer camp sessions filled up quickly. The summer camps will run for 10 weeks. A day at the camp runs from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. In addition to typical camp activities such as games and fitness programs, campers are taken on field trips, are given hands-on learning experiences and learn various crafts.
Arbour said that the Fitness and Aquatics Center is growing in popularity. For a fee, those interested in staying physically fit can work out with an array of cardio and weight machines.
PARDS will offer a number of organized leagues for the remainder of this year. Baseball and softball leagues for boys ages 7-12 and girls ages 7-14 have been set. Registration for play in these leagues concluded Feb. 19 and the season will run April 11-20.
Registration for T-ball and girls’ coaches pitch leagues will continue through April 8 for a season that runs from May 23-July 1.
Fall soccer for youths aged 4-12 starts with registration June 20-July 8. The season is slated for Aug. 15-Sept. 23.
Flag football for ages 5-12 will be conducted Oct. 10-Nov. 18. Registration for this sport will be Aug. 8-Sept. 2.
The spring adult coed soccer league for ages 18 and older will be conducted May 30 –July 29 with registration set for May2-20. The fall adult coed soccer league is planned for Oct. 3-Dec. 9 with registration scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 12.
The adult summer basketball season will be June 26-Aug. 21 with registration being held June 6-20.
Online registration for the organized leagues is now available at www.pardsla.com and families are urged to use the service.
While considerable emphasis is placed in organized leagues with set seasons, Arbour said the parks and their facilities are open on a regular basis for a variety of activities. For example, pavilions are available for such things as family and class reunions, school gatherings and for picnicking. The walking trails are popular with many. Groups who need a large venue for fundraisers, graduations and such can lease some of the facilities.
“We try to serve in any way that we can. Our goal is to meet the recreational needs of the community we serve and we are always ready to accommodate those who come to us seeking our help. PARDS is an important aspect of the Denham Springs community and our mission to so serve our residents in the best manner we can,” Arbour said.