By Claire Salinas
In 2003 BREC passed a tax to enhance East Baton Rouge parks. $80,000 was allocated to the Gardere Lane Park, but nothing was done to update the park. In 2013, another tax passed, but still nothing was done.
As it stands, children at the Gardere Lane Park can play soccer, basketball, and baseball, but have nowhere to climb monkey bars, race down a slide, or swing. But all of this will soon change since the center has recently received a grant from Kaboom to build a new playground.
Up to this point, BREC has offered a mobile playground for community children during the summer and holidays complete with hula hoops, basketballs and goals, jump ropes, and other portable exercise equipment, but the grant money will allow a permanent structure to be built.
According to Gardere Center Initiative Director, Murelle Harrison, the permanent playground will enable the community to engage in various physical activities daily rather than at scheduled times.
“In addition to the physical benefits of a playground, children will learn how to socially interact, develop playground etiquette and take proper care of the equipment,” Harrison said.
Harrison also feels like the playground will help to create a healthier community.
“We believe that a playground will help to reduce obesity, stress and crime,” Harrison said. “It’s among the foundation pieces to build a healthy community.”
The community will play an integral part in building the playground. Last Saturday the Gardere Initiative hosted a Design Day during which community members were asked to choose their favorite playground design.
These votes will be very important to the building process since, according Gardere Initiative program director, Reginald Brown, “popular votes wins here.” The design chosen by the community at Design Day will be used to build the playground.
The community will also be invited out to a build day in June to help put the finishing touches on the playground. According to Brown. all community participation in the process is vital.
“It creates ownership and that’s exactly what we need in a community. We need residents to take ownership of all the things that happen in their community,” Brown said. “It reduces crime and violent behavior also because people know each other, take care of each other and look out for each other.”
Harrison explained that the design process becomes even more personal later this year, with opportunities in April and May for children to decorate tiles with their names that will be used as the walkways around the park.
Brown thinks the playground will give the kids a place in their community where they can simply have “good clean fun.”
“Adults care about the welfare of the kids in this community because they’re actually doing something to improve where they play and hang out,” Brown said.
Children can come paint and decorate tiles for the walkways and walls in the new park at 10 a.m. on April 6 and May 3 and the community build day will take place on June 6 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gardere Lane BREC Park 1702 Gardere Lane.
For more information about the building process contact Reginald Brown at 225.769.0305.