Welcome to Ascension Parish

Halen Doughty

I am incredibly happy to announce that I am officially a resident of Ascension Parish!

I moved into my new place on Friday, and I could not be more pleased about being a resident in what I believe is the best parish in Louisiana. Ascension is one of the fastest-growing parishes in the state. With great schools and tons of job opportunities, it’s not hard to see why everyone wants to live in AP. That’s why it always boggles my mind when I hear people complain about all these problems the parish is facing.  

In my line of work, I stay in touch with people in the community on every level, from citizens and visitors to business owners and elected officials. That means I am in a position to hear what people have to say about the parish – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I hear a lot of people talking about all these issues they have with the parish - the government, the infrastructure, and so on. In many instances, I hear these complaints from people who boast about being lifelong residents of Ascension.

It is important to note here that I am not a lifelong resident of the parish, obviously. In fact, I am not a lifelong resident of any place. This is actually the fourth Louisiana parish I have called home in my life. There’s Ouachita Parish, my home parish. (That’s Wash-I-Taw, for those of you who have not ventured into the 318.) I spent a year in Lincoln Parish while attending Louisiana Tech University. I also lived in East Baton Rouge Parish for more than two years.

I say that because I feel that some people who have not lived in other area codes may take for granted some of the things that make Ascension Parish great. First and foremost, for me, as a young woman living alone, is that AP is safe. Monroe was recently named the most dangerous city in America. That’s right, in per capita murders, shootings, and other violent crimes, my town beats out both Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It’s not even limited to violent crime. According to KNOE, more than 50 people in West Monroe and Monroe were arrested for meth, crack, PCP, cocaine, or ecstasy in the past two weeks alone. When’s the last time you heard of anything like that happening here?

Oddly enough, however, I felt safer living in Monroe than I did in Baton Rouge. When I covered statewide news, there was not a single day that went by without multiple emails from BRPD on at least one shooting, if not many. Don’t even get me started on the criminal activity in north Baton Rouge. Ascension can’t hold a candle to my city or BR in crime, and that’s a huge blessing.

Another complaint I hear a lot has to do with the traffic in the parish. To that I would simply ask, have you ever driven in Baton Rouge? Like, ever? Rush hour lasts from 3 p.m. until well after 6 p.m. throughout EBR Parish. On Fridays, you can expect the gridlock to begin shortly after noon. Sitting in traffic for more than an hour isn’t unheard of, and don’t even think about getting on the interstate during peak drive time. Wrecks plague the highways in the Capitol City daily, adding to the delays. Baton Rouge is also home to the only section of the interstate in the country that comes down to one lane (i.e. just over the bridge at the Washington St. exit). So, don’t even talk to me about traffic if that commute isn’t part of your daily routine.

Furthermore, Ascension is steadily making improvements to its transportation infrastructure. AP was awarded the last capacity expansion project from DOTD (the La 42 widening), as transportation funding is limited in the state. So limited, in fact, that my hometown has been literally begging for a new bridge across the Ouachita River for more than 40 years, and we aren’t even close to getting it. Let’s all be grateful that at least something is getting done in this department.

Another thing that saddens me is hearing people say Ascension Parish is no longer a rural community. I can assure you that it is still rural in the best way possible. It is rural in the sense that when you walk into a convenience store, the staff asks how you’ve been since the last time, because of course they recognize you. It’s rural in the sense that when you’re having a bad day you can take a drive down an open highway to clear your head. It’s rural in the sense that most everybody knows most everybody else. Family names mean something, and if I don’t know you, I probably at least know someone you’re related to. I assure you, none of that happens in Baton Rouge.

Of course, every place can be improved. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t ways Ascension can be made better. It’s important to look for ways to improve your community. However, it is equally important to acknowledge all of the wonderful things we do have and be grateful for that.

Ascension Parish has a lot going for it, and we should try not to sweep the good under the rug when we talk about ways to make it better. AP has the fourth best school district in the state. It boasts numerous chemical plants offering high-paying jobs and making massive economic impacts. It hosts multiple festivals each year, making it a tourist destination as well. It has tons of great local businesses, and it is home to some of the nicest people I have ever met.

As we work together to make Ascension Parish everything it can be, let’s not lost sight of what it is. I could have lived anywhere in the state, or the country for that matter, and I chose AP for a reason. I am glad to call Ascension Parish my home.

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