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Jefferson Parish leaders, community divided on future of 6 playgrounds

<i>WDSU</i><br/>Jefferson Parish is looking at ways to reimagine six parks in the parish
WDSU
WDSU
Jefferson Parish is looking at ways to reimagine six parks in the parish

By Cassie Schirm

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    JEFFERSON PARISH, Louisiana (WDSU) — Jefferson Parish is looking at ways to reimagine six parks in the parish, but there is a divide among the community on how that looks.

The parish says changes are needed at six parks: Lemon, Avondale, Bright, Delta, Bridge City and Rosethorne.

They say low participation numbers at those facilities are creating inequities for children, with many unable to field certain teams.

“One of the things that we’re trying to address is that we have 27 parks throughout the parish,” said Parish President Cynthia Le Sheng. “Some parks literally have like 2,000 kids going a year, and some parks might only have 100 children going a year. There’s absolutely times where playgrounds are not able to field a team and have to play the rest of the season at another playground. So kids are already used to not playing at their home playground for lack of other participants.”

In the original plan, the Avondale playground would become a basketball academy.

The Delta playground would become a baseball and softball academy, with a hitting lab, pitching machines and indoor batting cages.

The Bright playground would expand to 16 tennis courts.

Bridge City playground would install an outdoor archery range, alongside soccer and flag football fields.

The destroyed Rosethorne playground in Lafitte would be reimagined as a fishing and entertainment hub.

Lemon would house a cheer academy and a lacrosse complex.

In this plan, kids would go to certain playgrounds to play specific sports. This means kids in those neighborhoods would have to travel to other parks to practice and play.

A concern for some parents at a heated public meeting was most of the kids walk to the playgrounds, saying some kids will get left behind because they can’t travel.

“The kids are going to get bored,” said Yenti Logwood, a Lemon Playground parent. “You have kids carjacking at 10 and 11 years old in New Orleans, is that what you want our kids to start doing? If that’s the case, open up the jail cells now.”

When it comes to getting kids to the playgrounds, Lee Sheng says it’s something they will need to look into.

“Whenever we make changes, the transportation issue is something that we need to solve, and the affordability piece is something that we need to solve,” said Lee Sheng. “No kid is going to be left behind because of an affordability issue.”

After the pushback for the changes from the community, Lee Sheng says she plans to work with community members to keep moving forward.

“We’re listening. We’re not going to give you something that you don’t want,” said Lee Sheng. “We need it to be successful, so we need to look at the strength of that playground at the programs that are popular already. If you’re that passionate about your playground, you need to help us fill it with you.”

It’s a mission Avondale cheer coach Raquel Munoz says she’s taking personally.

“This is my home to come to play sports, this is why I love sports because of this playground.” Said Raquel.

She has been working with other parents to get more kids to join.

“We’ve been posting actively on social media making flyers,” said Munoz. “Within the past few weeks starting cheer registration, we have five teams with 49 girls within three weeks. That says a lot.”

She says it’s she is doing this for the kids.

“If they feel they don’t have nowhere to go, there’s nothing to do come here,” said Munoz. “Come here, come play. Come join the family, because that’s why we’re all here. We’re family. We like to laugh, we like to teach the fundamentals, and at the end of the day, it’s not about winning or losing.

The next Jefferson Parish meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bridge City Playground.

The final meeting will be regarding Delta on Nov. 3.

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