OUR OPINION: YMCA’s closure takes away from parish

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Amid all the talk of the Lamar-Dixon Expo?Center’s impending closure at the end of June, many of us seem to have fallen ino the trap of not seeing the forest from the trees.

The YMCA’s branch at the center will be closing at year’s end, removing a place where young men and women can get away from negative influences and keep an active, healthy lifestyle. Members of the Lamar-Dixon YMCA chapter were notified by letter Nov. 13 that the center would close.

The decision comes on the heels of a failed Nov. 4 tax proposal by parish government to purchase and upgrade the center, which has become a focal point in political realms. The parish had hoped to purchase the center and use it as a recreational haven as well as for emergency relief staging, in addition to continued use for ag-related events.

Closure of the YMCA branch gives parish children one less avenue to enjoy athletic pasttimes and other events.

Unfortunately, parish residents never really took advantage of having such a facility nearby. When news broke about the center’s unclear future, membership was affected. Branch manager Jason Vande Vuss said the branch lost about half its peak membership since opening in 2000, and the YMCA was tentatively planning to move and build at a new location on property to donated by the City of Gonzales near Jambalaya Park.

Flo Magee, events coordinator for the expo center, said that while the YMCA?branch will close, the Louisiana Edible Creations Center food incubator opened by the Ascension Economic Development Corporation will remain open until June 30.

Vande Vuss said the YMCA will continue to maintain the Gonzales Jambalaya Park swimming pool and aquatics program, and before- and after-school program. The Summer Day Camp will also continue, but at a different location to be determined.

While opinions vary as to whether the expo center should or should not close (and with rumblings from Baton Rouge that the state may consider buying the facility for emergency use), the closure of the YMCA branch is without a doubt a no-win situation for everyone in Ascension Parish. Much like Parish President Tommy Martinez said about the expo center after the tax proposal failed, Ascension Parish won’t know what it had until its gone.