No walk in the park

Kyle Riviere
St. Amant's Butch Gore Park. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

In many aspects, Ascension is one of the premier parishes in the state.

It's one of the fastest growing areas in Louisiana, and the parish routinely grades out as one of the best in the state in academics.

When it comes to food, there is no greater indicator of its excellence than the title the city of Gonzales has earned as the "Jambalaya Capitol of the World."

When it comes to sports, the St. Amant vs. East Ascension football rivalry is one of the best in the state. Top to bottom, it's one of the most talented baseball and softball areas in Louisiana.

Still, these is one aspect in which Ascension has found itself behind the eight ball. There is one aspect that has some residents frustrated and looking for long-overdue changes.

They want to see improvements finally made at the parish's baseball and softball parks.

Recently, an anonymous resident sent a letter to the Weekly Citizen voicing their concerns, as well as the concerns of many like them.

The letter detailed the deficiencies of Butch Gore Park in St. Amant.

The park often hosts recreation softball tournaments that sometimes contain as many as 40 teams. The St. Amant High School softball squad also plays a tournament there each year.

Though, the author of the letter said that the conditions at the park have not been up to par. The bathrooms are unsatisfactory, and the sidewalk is in need of repairs.

The author said, "The sidewalks have become increasingly dangerous because there may be as much as five-inch drop-offs between it and the ground. Yes, this has caused injuries. I believe the lack of action to assure the health and safety of our players and spectators needs to be addressed immediately."

This letter proved to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The week I published it in the Weekly Citizen's sports section, I also posted it on our website and our Facebook page.

There, it received a huge response from local readers. Not only did many agree that it was high time Butch Gore received repairs, there were countless Ascension residents that argued that Butch Gore was just one of the many parks in the parish that needed a serious face-lift.

In fact, the consensus opinion was that out of the major parks in the parish, Butch Gore was actually the park that needed the least amount to TLC.

The parks that continued to come up were Stevens, Paula and St. Amant.

One Facebook user said, “Paula Park needs major work done. Butch Gore looks amazing compared to it.”

The whole situation is a catch-22 for the parish.

Many residents want to see these parks improved, but with the recreation budget already paper thin, it’s hard to see these wide-sweeping repairs taking place.

Recently, there was a tax proposed for the distinct purpose of the recreation department having the funds to fix things, but that proposal failed to garner enough votes.

Without the extra funds from the tax, things will continue to be complicated when it comes to park renovation, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Some have said that better management could go a long way.

The author of the letter pointed out that the tournaments held at parks like Butch Gore bring in a lot of money that could go toward these projects.

I’m no park expert, I’m not on the recreation committee and my college degree was not in finance or business administration.

I don’t know how they get there, but like the many concerned parish residents, I would love to see these parks improved.

Ascension is such an amazing baseball and softball parish.

Many of its players will go on to play collegiately, and almost every high-school will compete in the playoffs each year. There is usually at least one team that will reach Sulphur for the state tournament.

Little-league teams routinely bring home district, state and world series titles each summer.

These talented young players, their coaches, parents and fans all deserve better than what they have now.