APSO opens Waguespack Park

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
gfischer@weeklycitizen.com
Two boys wave at the camera in front of the mini rock-climbing wall in the playground area.

A project months in the making came to fruition on Saturday, September 16. The Donaldsonville Sheriff Substation was finally opened to the community.

It was named after long-time Sheriff Hickley M. Waguespack, who is remembered to have done well for the Donaldsonville people.

"We named it after a very special person," APSO Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said. "Hickley Waguespack, who was a former sheriff from 1948-1972. A great man and a great sheriff through the Civil Rights Movement. He was ahead of his time."

Despite the rain, people came in droves to play on the fresh basketball courts and children's playground equipment. Volunteers from the sheriff's office served complimentary jambalaya and at times huddled beneath tents with families to stay dry.

"Hats off to the sheriff's department for making this park become a reality," Mayor Leroy Sullivan said. "Watching the kids back here playing just brings joy to your heart, that they can come here and have fun and feel safe at the same time. It's going to do a lot to bridge the gap.

"It appears [former Sheriff Hickley Waguespack] was a trailblazer to get Ascension Parish to grow, to get industry here. Hearing what the sheriff said about how he treated people during the time when there was so much racial tension is commendable."

A truck was parked on site serving snowballs to help everyone beat the heat. Inside the substation, one could smell the new paint. It looked like a completely different facility than it did a few months ago. The substation now has cozy areas for children to read and even use a computer.

Moreover, it has been said repeatedly that the substation will not be used for any abrasive arrest scenarios. It is utterly intended to be a peaceful place in the community for families to create greater bonds with police officers, to fix a mistrust that we have seen growing in many places in the country in recent times.

"Today was the culmination of a lot of hard work," APSO Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said, "a lot of dedication by so many people, so many volunteers. The Sheriff's Office, the school board, city government here, who've helped us with resources.

"Now we are looking for our deputies and our supervisors to build trust in the community, mutual respect, to collaborate with the community and to move community policing into a whole new realm. How maybe unique throughout the country to have a substation and a community park attached and operated in a way where it fosters good relationships.

"And hopefully you don't have those nights like St. Louis last night and issues like that. You hope that we can come together in a collaborative effort and work out our challenges. I think we can. We're very proud of this."