LETTER: Let's build Oak Grove Community Center

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Recently I attended a meeting when Ascension Parish Councilman Chris Loar outlined plans for the proposed Oak Grove Community Center Park and Playground. I read of this site’s history in “Oak Grove and Hope Villa” written by Ira Paul Babin in the Ascension Parish Bicentennial book.

In 1897 in the community of Oak Grove in Ascension Parish existed a school known as Big Swamp School. This became, in 1904, the Oak Grove High School, a handsome new two story wooden structure, the pride and joy of the community. In the early 1940s this school was ordered closed by the school board due to school consolidation and to better utilize the newly built Dutchtown High School.

The property where the school once stood is now the site of the Oak Grove Community Center. In their desire to hold on to what their school represented, the local residents purchased 1.5 acres of the property from the school board. In 1977, this property purchased some 36 years before, was donated to the parish recreation commission. The donation was conditional; the land must always be used for recreation purposes and green space.

During the last Parish administration money was budgeted so this property could be made into a park and playground to be of more use for all members of the community. Councilman Chris Loar mentioned continuing use as a voting precinct and a gathering place for those needing a facility for family or community events. However, first and most importantly, he suggested, areas be constructed as a children’s playground, too. State and Federal grants are available to help finance this project. Why isn’t the work being done? What is the hold up?

In the plans for the park, we respectfully request a historical-marker be erected at this Oak Grove Community Center, the former site of the Oak Grove High School, noting this school site of Louisiana’s first accredited vocational/agricultural school established under the Federal Smith-Hughes Act.

We continue to demolish historical buildings, fail to erect markers, lose tract of our heritage. Please, join in acknowledging our history. Make this world more beautiful because we are living in it.

Come on folks, let’s build this park now.

Ms. Pie Lanoux, Gonzales