As the early summer breeze brought the scent of freshly mown grass and the aroma of food truck feasts, scores of Lafayette residents arrived at Party in the Park on Saturday for the unveiling of Lafayette Central Park’s official name: Moncus Park at the Horse Farm.
Named for a retired Lafayette businessman and the park’s biggest donor, Jim Moncus, the park’s board members said keeping the Horse Farm as part of the park’s name was Moncus’ idea.
“It also gives it a sense of uniqueness that’s a big part of our community,” said Elizabeth “E.B.” Brooks, the park’s executive director and a former leader of the 2005 Save the Horse Farm movement. “It makes the park uniquely Lafayette and keeps a little part of its history while still honoring Mr. Moncus.”
Lafayette residents who were interviewed said they appreciated the decision to keep Horse Farm in the park’s name.
“I think that it’s great because everyone already knew it as the Horse Farm,” said Kevin Johnson as he sat under an umbrella and enjoyed the band on the stage. “It’s a part of our history.”
Others said they were excited about the economic impact the park could have for the Acadiana area.
“It’ll put us on the map with a central park like New York or Austin, (Texas),” said Gloria Gassiott, a local bed-and-breakfast owner. “It’ll be wonderful to send people to a central location for music and events and culture.”
The event itself was a fundraiser for the park, with more than 200 volunteers helping run it. While the jams of local bands like Sweet Cecilia, Brass Mimosa and Soul Express Brass Band entertained the crowd, games provided by the Children’s Museum of Acadiana were available for kids, and food trucks and booths sold savory meals for all attendees.
At 12:30 p.m., the bands stopped playing, and prominent figures such as Lafayette Central Park board Chairman Lenny Lemoine, former Mayor-President Joey Durel and current Mayor-President Joel Robideaux all spoke at the ceremony before the park’s official name was unveiled.
Lemoine called the park and the 10 years of work put into it “the ultimate public-private undertaking.”
Moncus’ friend, Fred Werner, called on the legacy of the U.S. National Park Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, to explain Moncus’ motivations for donating to the building of the park.
“The first national park started in 1872 — that was Yellowstone — and Congress gave them one simple mission: ‘Make it a place for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’ ” Werner said. “And that is Jim Moncus’ vision for the Moncus Park at the Horse Farm.”
Claire Hempel, a planner for Design Workshop, the Austin-based firm in charge of landscape architecture and design, was thrilled to be working on the park and called it a “once-in-a-lifetime kind of project.”
“We really get to start from a blank canvas with community input and take that input and make a design for it,” said Hempel. “In such an urban context where you have this piece of land that has been preserved, it’s been a very unique project with really great clients and a wonderful community to work for.”
Park officials could not release the amount Moncus donated to the park, but they said various parts of the park will be named after top donors and they are still accepting donations for the park.
More than $11 million was raised last year, and this year’s numbers will be released next year. Other donors besides Moncus did not wish to be named publicly.
Construction on the park, which includes an amphitheater, a kayaking lake, a treehouse and a dog park, begins at the end of this year. A completion date is still unknown until the park raises enough money to complete the project.