"First, we want to preserve our parks," Robinson said. "We're going to have the sidewalks developed. We want to have a recreation complex with facilities for public use. We're going to add additional bike trails along the river and tie it into Bayou Lafourche. We're going to have community gardens."

Ascension Parish residents gathered at three community workshops throughout the parish to offer their input on the master plan for development in the parish. The meetings were held in Prairieville, Gonzales, and Donaldsonville, where citizens had the chance to draw on maps of the parish to indicate where they would like to see roads, subdivisions, and industrial development.

From 2000 to 2016, Ascension Parish experienced 59 percent population growth - the highest rate in the state. That growth has resulted in a population that tops 120,000 and is still growing. Creating a comprehensive strategy will allow better budgeting and planning to further development.

A presentation was given on the projected growth of the parish, as it shows no signs of stopping. Presenters spoke about the growing and aging population and how it affects household composition.

In Donaldsonville, roughly thirty people were in attendance at Lowery Elementary, including the mayor and councilmen. Conversations could be overheard about building a new elementary school off the highway and a certified day care center.

Attendee Alyce Robinson identified her group of participants, which was one of three groups, as the "Trendsetters." This group also identified the need for parks and cultural improvements.

"First, we want to preserve our parks," Robinson said. "We're going to have the sidewalks developed. We want to have a recreation complex with facilities for public use. We're going to add additional bike trails along the river and tie it into Bayou Lafourche. We're going to have community gardens."

The goal of the master plan is to meet the changing wants and needs of the parish.

Citizens were encouraged to bring their ideas to the table, literally. Maps were spread out over tables, and people worked in groups to draw out where they would like to see new roads and houses, as well as areas they would like to see protected.

The Ascension Parish Master Lans Use Plan is comprehensive in that it covers a wide range of topics including land use, transportation, drainage, recreation, housing, and much more. The Ascension Parish Master Land Use plan will include both short and long term implementation strategies. For instance, attendees are concerned about traffic.

"Traffic is backed up from White Castle into town," attendee Michael Cayette said.

A master land use plan is a guide to development. The plan determines residents' goals about how an area should be developed. The vision is built around public input, as policy recommendations are created that will achieve the vision. Leaders refer to this plan as they make decisions guiding growth and development.

The planning process began in March of 2018. Over the next year and a half, the team will gather feedback through public workshops, meetings, and interviews with community leaders. That input will be reflected in a vision, recommendations, and strategies that can be put into action.

Later this summer or into the fall, the recommendations from all three meetings will be put into a vision, which will also be up for review by residents. Towards the end of the year, the plan will finalized, and citizens will have another chance to look at the proposal and voice their opinions.

The Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) is comprised of a team of planners, engineers, and designers who gather public input and create usable plans. CPEX, which also worked with the City of Gonzales to develop its 20 year plan, is working on the parish's master land use plan, which only covers unincorporated areas of the parish.

"Every one of them included the extension of 3127, so we're currently working on that," Parish Councilman Bill Dawson said. "It's an important part of trying to promote development in Donaldsonville and on the west bank. I think there is a wonderful atmosphere downtown in Donaldsonville. It's the only place that you have a town square that's still in tack. You have all the buildings. You have the walking space. Eventually it will develop."

Ascension Parish residents can sign up for updates by emailing AscensionMasterPlan@cpex.org. Residents can call 225-389-7197 with questions or concerns. For more information, visit ascensionmasterplan.com.