Iota Park

Rough rendering of the new park proposed to be built in Iota.

IOTA — After 107 years since its founding, the town of Iota may finally get its first town park if organizers can raise the money.

It's been a long time coming, according to Luke Dupre', one of the organizers behind the fundraising efforts. Now after at least a year of conversations about the issue, the town will hold the Iota Fall Festival at 2 p.m. Sept. 28 to raise money for the park, which early estimates say will cost over $200,000 and be located next to the Iota Volunteer Fire Department, 311 First St. 

"There's no center meeting places for recreation in town," Dupre' said. "My mom, when I was growing up, would drive us all the way to Crowley twice a week, so this has been happening for decades. Moms used to walk their babies on the school track, but that's not allowed now and kids are playing in the ditches near the baseball field. But they're by the street, so that's not safe. Something had to be done."

The effort comes after previous mayors promised a park but never moved past vague plans. That changed during last year's mayoral race when signs appeared that read, "Say yes to town park." Dupre' said no one knows who posted these signs, but they created support as both mayoral candidates promised a park.

Then Acadia Parish received a grant from the Delta Regional Authority that led to the Acadia Parish Placemaking initiative, which gathers ideas for community projects that can be a catalyst for economic growth. Iota residents overwhelmingly demanded a park.

"This is all community-driven," Dupre' said. "Local officials, people involved in the community, everyone — we all decided that we really needed a park. It's been months of work getting community input, but there's now a plan, a design, it's on city-owned land and now we just have to come up with the money."

Plans call for a central playground, a walking trail with exercise stations, a multi-purpose sports field, a splash pad, a concessions stand and sitting area. The initial listed cost was around $228,450, but Dupre' noted that will be updated. 

Organizers hope to raise money with the fall festival, set for Iota Veterans Memorial Pavilion, 110 Duson St. Admission is $10 admission ages 13 and up and will feature a jambalaya cook-off, live and silent auctions, an amateur hour featuring talents from local youth and live music from bands like Ervin Frey and Cajun Prairie, Colby Latiolais and Ambush and Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns.

Entry gets free samples from all cook-off contestants. Barbecue burgers and drinks will be sold along with $5 face painting.

"This is the first festival the town is putting together to raise money for the park," said Carrie Lecklet, who is organizing the festival. "I got together with the Iota First Club, and we started putting this together because this is something our community needs and we're taking the first steps toward getting it done. You have to start somewhere."

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Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.