Community to build playground

Leslie D. Rose @DvilleNewsie
LSU engineering student, Aidan Gallaugher, presenting his drawing to the leadership team and community members at The Church of Donaldsonville.

On April 9-10, community members will join together to ensure that their children have a safe place to play.

Located at 800 MLK Drive on the campus of The Church at Donaldsonville, the Leadership Ascension team initiative - Healthy Spaces for West Bank Faces - spearheaded by Donaldsonville native Captain Rick Bergeron of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, will come full circle when the playground equipment is installed this weekend. Team leader, Jackie Tisdell said that while the playground was Bergeron's vision, the entire team has really gotten to be very passionate about the project, and are elated to see it come together.

"We're so excited - it was Rick's idea because he was born and raised here, and bleeds Donaldsonville - and he brought the idea to our group," Tisdell said. "When we decided we wanted to do it, we had a lot of people say 'you really might want to consider because it costs so much money', but our entire team has done fundraising.

The project, which began last year, set a fundraising goal of $50,000, which they exceeded by $16,000 in actual donations and pledges. The minimal goal was to purchase and install standard playground equipment, including a handicap accessible swing. The excess in funds will allow for picnic tables and benches, a two slab basketball court and a a possible walking path that St. Elizabeth Hospital hopes to enhance with health information.

From conception to build, the team has received an immense amount of support.The playground drawings were based on input from students at Donaldsonville Primary and Lowery Elementary.Two groups of LSU engineering and architecture students worked on designs, and one of the groups will join for the community build, which is being led by a licensed construction supervisor.

Bruce Sharky,professor at the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, worked with his students to create the playground's master plan.

"We did an overall master plan of what the park could include to meet the needs of the community," Sharky said. "The plan was used to help attract more contributions to the project, gather more donations."

Tisdell said the community support has been the playground's saving grace.

"As a group and a community, The Church and LSU has been invaluable," Tisdell said.

Those interested in volunteering to construct the playground equipment must be at least 18-years-old, and register through Volunteer Ascension at Volunteers may select which day they wish the work and choose from a morning (8 a.m. to noon) or afternoon (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) shift. Individuals not registered will not be permitted to volunteer, and are asked to instead join the community on May 15 for the playground's ribbon cutting.

Once open, APSO will increase patrol near the park and will enforce daily opening and closing times for the area.