When Kiroli Park in West Monroe opened Smiles Park in June, the $1 million plus, inclusive playground served as an investment in the quality of life for area families. The playground was designed by a world renowned organization in California, Shane’s Inspiration, and is the first of its kind in the southeast U.S. Its unique design allows children with and without disabilities to play alongside each other.
Smiles Park offers outdoor inclusive play environments that are age-appropriate and includes safe, sensory-rich play structures. The playground also accommodates wheelchairs and provides special play equipment suited to most types of disabilities.
The West Monroe Civitan Club spent four years spearheading and fundraising for this project. Thanks to the generosity of the City of West Monroe and donors who supported Smiles Park, the Civitan Club was able to advance its vision of fostering a bias-free world for children with disabilities.
Smiles Park was designed with a fair theme as a nod to the Civitan’s annual fundraiser, the Ark-La-Miss Fair. To help facilitate inclusive play, Shane’s Inspiration has developed educational materials and will help launch workshops and Play Clubs this fall.
For more information visit us on Facebook at Civitan Smiles Park or call Kiroli Park at 318-396-4016.
Economic Benefits of Parks
Besides enhancing the quality of life for area families, Smiles Park and other green spaces boost the local economy. In Louisiana, parks generate $1.5 billion in economic activity and create more than 12,000 jobs, according to an economic impact study by the National Recreation and Parks Association. Parks enhance property values, increase municipal revenue, bring in home buyers and workers, and attract retirees. Northeast Louisiana is blessed with many natural habitats, which is why our region has been dubbed “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Ruston Invests in Green Spaces
As part of its Moving Ruston Forward initiative approved by voters in April 2016, the City of Ruston plans to spend $1 million to redevelop an old railroad right-of-way as a greenway. Named Rock Island Greenway after the railroad that once used this right-of-way, the linear park will boast biking, jogging and walking trails.
What is a greenway? It is a linear greenspace that encourages recreation and active transportation such as walking and biking. Rock Island Greenway will eventually run almost 6 miles across the city, connecting neighborhoods, businesses, educational institutions, and recreational amenities.
The first leg of the greenway officially opened in June and runs south from the intersection of W. Kentucky and Chautauqua. This twelve foot wide path traverses a native forest aside a small creek. Rock Island Greenway will be the first of its kind in the region and will serve as a vital transportation link that fosters a vibrant and active culture, encourages economic development and opportunity, promotes safety and health, and offers a state-of-the art public space. Learn more about Lincoln Parish’s parks at the Ruston-Lincoln Park Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ouachita Parish Defines “Sportsman’s Paradise”
Ouachita Parish boasts nearly a dozen parks, wildlife refuges, and wildlife management areas, including Forsythe Park. Located in the City of Monroe, the 53-acre, urban oasis offers picnic areas, a 9-hole golf course, putt-putt golf, tennis courts, softball, soccer fields, bike trails, and a children’s park. Beach volleyball courts, a jogging path and a public boat launch are located over the levee along the Ouachita River.
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is majestic 4,500-acre expanse of lake, swamp, and wildlife habitat for all manner of plants and animal species. Everything from small alligators and turtles to coyote, deer and a wide variety of birds can be found at Black Bayou. Go bird-watching from the wildlife pier or walk along nature trails or kayak on the quiet beauty of the 1,600-acre lake. Learn more about these parks and other natural habitats at the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Union Parish’s D’Arbonne State Park Attracts Tourism
Considered the crown jewel in Farmerville’s tourism industry, D’Arbonne State Park in Union Parish ranks as a star attraction in the Louisiana State Park system. The Park draws an estimated 90,000 visitors annually, according to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. From out-of-state visitors alone, D’Arbonne generates $1.2 million in economic impact annually for the local economy and supports 19 jobs.
With a 15,250 acre man-made lake as its centerpiece, D’Arbonne State Park offers cabins, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a boat launch ramp, a fishing pier, trailer hook-ups, meeting rooms, and pavilions. The Lake attracts fishermen of all ages and skill levels as well as water sports enthusiasts. Lake D’Arbonne also attracts retirees who have built their second or retirement homes along its shores.
Photographers love to capture the Park’s natural beauty from the vantage point of the tree stands in the towering pines. The Park’s rolling hills with its diverse trails are sure to challenge even avid cyclists. Learn more about Lake D’Arbonne Park at the Town of Farmerville.
Morehouse Parish’s Emerald Landscape
Wildlife refuges, parks, bayou ecosystems and nature preserves dot Morehouse Parish’s lush landscape, creating a tapestry of natural beauty. The star attraction in the Parish’s ecotourism is Chemin-A-Haut State Park, located 10 miles north of Bastrop. The 503-acre park draws nearly 50,000 visitors annually according to Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. It generates $732,758 in economic impact for the local economy and supports 11 jobs.
This historic state park offers many activities on Big Slough Lake, Chemin-a-Haut Creek and Bayou Bartholomew, allowing for fishing, kayaking, canoeing. Chemin-A-Haut Park was designed with families in mind with two playgrounds, open pavilions and an amphitheater available for a variety of events. Portions of the Park are equine friendly and host trail rides.
Other green attractions in Morehouse Parish include Handy Brake National Wildlife Refuge and Kalorama Reily Nature Preserve. Learn more about these natural assets at Morehouse Economic Development Corp.