Leadership Ascension Group to build community park

Staff Report
Members of the Leadership Ascension project team, Healthy Spaces for West Bank Faces, receives a $5,000 donation from PotashCorp to build a playground in Donaldsonville. Pictured from left: Cindy Babin, Kevin Chenier, Daniel Domangue, Trinette Reynard, Chris Irvine, Charla Johnson, PotashCorp Human Resources Manager Garry Hiebert, Jackie Tisdell, Ascension Chamber of Commerce President Sherrie Despino, and Rick Bergeron. Not pictured: Scott Bradshaw.

     DONALDSONVILLE – A Leadership Ascension project team, Healthy Spaces for West Bank Faces, plans to build a community park in Donaldsonville this spring. The park, located at the old Lowery Middle School site now owned by The Church of Donaldsonville, will include a playground designed by LSU Engineering students based on drawings and input from students at Donaldsonville Primary and Lowery Elementary.

     “When Westside Patrol Division Captain Rick Bergeron of the the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office proposed this project, our team was moved by his impassioned plea on behalf of the children who play in the streets after school and on the weekends,” said Ascension Public Schools Public Information Officer Jackie Tisdell, who serves as the team’s project manager. 

     “Our team has pulled together a truly multi-faceted approach to the fundraising, design, and community build aspects of the project. We are fortunate to partner with LSU’s Dr. Marybeth Lima, who is nationally known for community playground builds.  She literally wrote the book on how to do this.”

     Project partner Dr. Marybeth Lima is the Cliff and Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and director of the Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership at Louisiana State University (LSU).  Over the years, her students have designed and built over 30 playgrounds.

     On Dec. 2,  Dr. Lima and a team of LSU engineering students visited with Donaldsonville Primary and Lowery Elementary school students. The input from the meeting will be used in the design of the playground.

     While delivering care packages to student homes, Lowery Elementary Principal Dawn Love reinforced this playground will meet a need for her students. 

     “These kids should be able to have constructive fun in a nice family setting. This park will provide a place for our students to play in a safe environment when they are home, not out running on the streets,” Love said.

     Research into the income and health disparities between the east and west sides of the parish revealed the need for a park where both children and adults can exercise and play in a safe environment. The team is in the process of raising $50,000 for the playground to be built and possibly to install a walking path on the property.

     On Nov 19,  the project received its first donation in the amount of $5,000 from PotashCorp. Human Resources Manager Garry Hiebert hand-delivered the check to the Ascension Chamber of Commerce office and posed for a picture with the project team.

     Those wishing to partner or contribute to the project can contact project manager Jackie Tisdell at or (225) 210-7567. 

     Leadership Ascension is an innovative program sponsored by The Ascension Chamber of Commerce to assist in preparing emerging community leaders for leadership positions in local government, business and community affairs.  The results-oriented program is directed by a steering committee of community leaders with the assistance of the Chamber staff.