DONALDSONVILLE — A triple slide, drums and a rock climbing wall are just some of what volunteers hope to bring to Donaldsonville’s children in a new park this spring.
Add a “spinner” that lets children hold onto an overhead circular bar and spin through the air and a “track ride” that works like a small version of a zip line, and it sounds like a dream come true for kids.
The dream began with an idea from one of the classes in this year’s Leadership Ascension program of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce that works to benefit the community.
The class, headed by Jackie Tisdell, who is also the spokeswoman for the Ascension Parish school system, quickly found other partners. The park will be built on the grounds of The Church in Donaldsonville, which is on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and LSU students, all biological engineering majors involved with the university’s Community Playground Project headed by professor Marybeth Lima, took on the design of the playground.
The Volunteer Ascension team also, to date, has raised $35,000 of the $50,000 cost of the park. Major donors include Potash Corp., St. Elizabeth Hospital, Methanex, BASF and the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Tisdell said those working on the project hope to raise the remaining funds by March 1, in time for a “community build” — volunteers working in two-hour shifts — to put together the playground equipment on the weekend of April 9-10.
On Jan. 26, LSU students presented plans to community volunteers, based in large part on drawings that area children made of their dream park at a get-together in early December.
“Let what you know about this community be your guide to what captures (the children’s) imagination,” Lima told the volunteers.
The LSU students presented a variety of ideas — some traditional, others more creative — for playground equipment with cost breakouts. “Anything is subject to change,” said Daniel Davison , a junior at LSU.
In the end, Leadership Ascension volunteers and the Rev. Fitzpatrick Pitts, the church pastor, arrived at their vision for the park, selecting the spinner, rock climbing wall, drums along with tables and benches, and swings for toddlers, older children and a chair swing for children with disabilities
Lima also encouraged the volunteers to restore a basketball court that is on the church campus, which was once the site of a middle school.
“This project is a godsend for us,” Pitts told the LSU students. “We wanted a project to connect the community.”
“We are so excited to see this project take shape,” Tisdell said.
Since Lima’s biological engineering students became involved in December, another group of LSU students have joined the project. Students of landscape architecture professor Bruce Sharky will do a site plan for the park that will include the playground, and perhaps a jogging track around the perimeter of the park along with a method to divert rainwater to a garden of water-loving, native Louisiana plants.
“This semester, they’re going to work on three different projects. One I want to be something with community service,” Sharky said.
After learning about the effort for the Donaldsonville playground from Lima — who, in addition to being a professor of biological and agricultural engineering, is director of LSU’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership — Sharky said it seemed an ideal community project for his students.
“When students do things in the community, they learn about what they can contribute and what their profession can contribute,” Sharky said.