Koop Drive is a small street, but, without question, it sees many more visitors than any other comparable avenue in St. Tammany Parish.
That’s because Koop Drive, which is just north of Interstate 12 at La. 59 in Mandeville, is home to the St. Tammany Parish Government Administrative Complex. It’s also headquarters for the Tammany Trace, the wonderful Kids Konnection Playground, a pavilion for entertainment and more.
That list of attractions is about to grow again with the addition of Kids Town, a Western-style railroad town designed for children’s interactive play. A groundbreaking was held May 22 for the facility that, when complete, will include a “make-believe” fire station, a sheriff’s office, general store and more.
According to Tammany Trace Foundation President Bruce Wainer, hopes are to have the fire station and a depot complete by the end of the year. Kids Town will be a phased project, meaning that additional parts of the town will come online as funding is available.
Construction has not yet started, but that soon will change, Wainer said.
“We’re finalizing all the permits with the parish,” he said. “We’re gearing up to do survey work and the like. But we’re certainly getting ready to pull the trigger.”
That’s welcome news for parents and children around St. Tammany. Completion of Kids Town will, in many ways, bring the public park at Koop Drive full circle, Wainer said. The buildings will be “shells with pretty features,” he said, which will provide ideal spaces for birthday parties and, thus, create a revenue stream for the nonprofit Tammany Trace Foundation. That group stages the annual Holiday of Lights celebration, as well as numerous other events throughout the year.
“A lot of my focus has been on the kids,” Wainer said. “There’s a lack of things for kids to do in the parish, and I wanted to focus on that. Forget the administrative complex. This is a public park with a great playground. Now, we’ll add Kids Town.
“We’d like to have firefighters out there at the fire station teaching fire safety on the weekends; there will be a jail, so maybe sheriff’s deputies can come out and fingerprint the kids and teach safety. It’s going to be a place where kids are going to learn.”
Wainer said hopes were to have construction on the Kids Town project started by now, but tricky weather throughout the first half of 2014 delayed that progress. Also, the scale of the project is large, which means there are things that must be accomplished before construction can begin. Varuso Enterprises will lead the construction effort, Wainer said.
“Really, there’s a lot of stuff for the parish to digest with Kids Town,” he said. “We’re putting in water, sewer, sidewalks, street lights. It really is going to be a little town.”
Tammany Trace Foundation officials are seeking donations (both monetary and in-kind) to help fund completion of Kids Town. Wainer is excited about starting the project and seeing it through to completion.
“We started with the playground there and then the pavilion. The next step always was Kids Town,” Wainer said. “I think it will be a tremendous asset to what we already have out there. There will be six buildings for events. It’ll be a destination for parish residents and people from beyond, hopefully. We have the Trace there. You have the playground. Then you’ll have Kids Town.
“New Orleans has City Park and Storyland. We’ll have the Trace and Kids Town. Hopefully, ours is a place that is more educational and more fun.”
For more information on Kids Town, go to www.kidstownsttammany.org.