WALKER — Renovations and improvements to the latest addition to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Ferrington Place, are well on their way to completion and the facility is open for a variety of uses by the residents of Walker and the surrounding area.

Ferrington Place, on Florida Boulevard on the east side of the city, was the residence of Ed and Betty Ferrington for many years. When the couple decided to move from Walker to live with relatives in Folsom, they offered to sell the property to the city to add another dimension of services that would be available to city’s citizens, according to Walker Mayor Jimmy Watson.

The City of Walker, Livingston Parish school leaders and members of the Ferrington family held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 7 for the new Ferrington Place.

While the city is planning for residents to use the facility for a variety of purposes, students with special needs who attend school in the Walker School District can utilize the center as a life skills site designed to teach them how to perform day-to-day activities in a home setting. The Livingston Activity Center will work with the city to develop adult activities during other times of the day, and during evenings and weekends.

The newly renovated home is equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom and laundry room, enabling instructors to teach students how to perform daily activities in each of these settings in hopes of enabling them to live a safe, more independent lifestyle in their own private homes or in a group home setting. A large den located in the rear of the house is furnished with tables and chairs to accommodate larger gatherings.

“This beautiful piece of property was appraised at $576,000, but the Ferringtons agreed to sell it to the city for $200,000 and they also agreed to allow the city to pay for the place in installments of $20,000 a year for the next ten years. It was a real bargain, and we were happy to get this valuable asset that will be a positive addition to our city,” Watson said.

The large Ferrington house sits on approximately four tree-shaded acres in an easily accessible area of the city. City employees have renovated the house extensively and the facility is ready for its first purpose, a training site for special needs students where they can learn life skills. “Currently, students in our local school system had to go to Denham Springs to learn life skills that can prepare them for possible future employment. Now, that training will be done here at the Ferrington House,” he explained.

A portion of the house has been turned into an apartment complex where life skills such as learning how to make a bed, maintain living quarters, how to wash and dry clothes, and some basic cooking and kitchen chores can be taught. Watson said the city is working with local schools to provide for the training.

Another portion of the house features a large room where community organizations can meet. Already, a group of senior citizens have used the area as a meeting place where they come to create crafts that are given to local nursing homes and the new Council on Aging facility located nearby.

The local Kiwanis Club has been invited to hold their meetings in this room and they have already met on several occasions, the mayor said. Other areas of the house will be utilized for different functions as future plans are developed, said Jamie Etheridge, the city’s chief of staff. One of the rooms in this section of house could be used as office space for the Parks and Recreation Department, he said.

Watson and Etheridge said local citizens will be invited to use the facility for birthday parties, family reunions, and similar events and pointed out that the reception area can accommodate such gatherings.

The city is planning to build a quarter-mile walking trail on that will include placards describing the flora found on the grounds. The mayor said that a pavilion will also be built on the grounds and that the area will serve as a venue for family picnics and gatherings. Also planned for the future are outdoor games.

"We were extremely happy to acquire this wonderful facility at a very reasonable price. We just know that it will be an asset for the community, especially for the special needs students who will have a place to train close to home. We are always looking for ways to add something new and positive to the city and the Ferrington Place gave us the opportunity to add something quite different to our parks and recreation program. As we continue to develop the Ferrington Place, I feel sure that we will continue to discover new uses that can be something our citizens will unitize. We see only good things for the future of the Ferrington Place,” the mayor said.