On March 9, 2022, Winnfield’s Rotary Club was favored with a report from Shannan Chevallier about improvements and advancements of Winnfield’s Parks and Recreation centers. Mrs. Chevallier is the Chairman of Winnfield’s Parks & Recreation Board, a volunteer board put in place during the term of former Mayor Kiah Beville, which was charged with the task of developing a master plan to update and improve recreational sites and increase recreational opportunities for Winnfield city.
The City had received a grant of $300,000 for parks and recreation, and the best use of those funds was the focus of the board. The primary objectives for obtaining the grant were to increase the use of the various recreational facilities in town and to improve the health of the citizens by offering more recreational opportunities at the existing facilities. Winn Parish has high rates of obesity, and coronary artery disease is one of the main causes of death in our community. The board was assisted by a consultant from the Rapides Foundation in developing methods to obtain input from the citizens of Winnfield about improvements they desired in the community. With this help, it was able to organize a forum in different neighborhoods to get ideas and preferences in person, and a survey was sent to Winnfield’s water and sewage customers to collect information on the desires of a large percentage of people in the city.
Chevallier reported that the most popular idea was the creation of a splashpad. However, the board learned that not only are splash pads very expensive to create, but they are even more expensive to operate and maintain. While that project is still under consideration, the board’s master plan gave a higher priority to improvement of the existing recreational sites around town.
None of the existing playground equipment in the parks met standard safety requirements, so the first priority of the plan was to obtain playground equipment which does meet those safety standards, and next was to refurbish the Grove Street Recreation Center, which had not been done for more than 50 years.
Among the accomplishments of the Parks and Recreation Department under the guidance of the Board are replacement of flooring of the Grove Street center, painting of the entire facility, installation of batting cages for use by the general public, new basketball goals, placement of a cushioned surface and new safety-compliant equipment for the playground, while refurbishing a few existing structures which were kept. The Grove Street rec building is the most rented of all buildings available to be rented from the city of Winnfield. A second grant from the Rapides Foundation allowed the addition of an asphalt-paved walking trail, with arches and other pieces erected beside the trail at different points along the way, at the Grove Street Rec. Unfortunately, the price of materials to construct the trail increased so much from the planning stages to the actual building phase of construction that the ends of the trail could not be extended far enough to connect them. Construction was completed about a month ago, and the trail is ready for use.
Future plans for this park include erection of some dedicated pieces and installation of pieces of fitness equipment along the walking trial and dusk to dawn lighting. Family events, nutrition and health workshops and events, will be held at the Grove Street facility, and plans are in the works to encourage development of “mow-eye” groups, small groups of 5 to 7 people who meet at the park regularly to walk and exercise, who check up on each other, and hold each other accountable to continue an exercise regimen.
For the small park on Long Street off Highway 167, behind Brenda’s Chicken, the children in the neighborhood now have a new play set, bathrooms, swings, and new basketball goals. Shannan noted that this park is being well-used, and the improvements were quite worthwhile.
Work is ongoing in the Henderson-Holden park on Moss Street, next to the Henderson apartments. New bathrooms are in the works and some of the structures in the park are being updated. A new walking trail will be laid in place of the current one, and adult fitness equipment will be installed alongside the walking trials in the park. The new trail is included in the next phase of the latest grant.
Finally, in the Narvin Powell Memorial Park on South Pineville Street near the Winnfield Housing Authority office, all equipment, which was not compliant with safety guidelines was removed, and a new play structure erected along with the placement of other playground equipment. Picnic tables and trashcans have been added. Raising of the memorial stone in memory of Narvin Powell, a Winnfield City Police Officer killed in the line of duty, is in progress. Also planned is reconstruction of the retaining wall to prevent erosion due to collection of water.
Plans are in the works for a Winn Parish Social Community Garden, funded via a HYPE grant, in which youth are empowered to lead the project. The kids in Winnfield’s FFA decided they want to learn about gardening, and came up with the idea for a community garden. The property for the garden has been donated to the project by Steve Shelton. It’s located by the primary school, and the youth have already constructed the raised beds for the garden. Gardening clinics will be held with the youth, as well as with families to teach gardening skills not just to the kids, but to entire families, and the produce will be shared within the community. This project will also include blessing boxes, where nonperishable food items may be left for the benefit of anyone who needs it, a butterfly garden, a painted rock garden, and food demonstrations on preparing the foods grown in the garden. There will also be a Story Walk, with concrete posts holding a written story installed beside a walking track, for those in the garden to read as they walk along the path. This will not only get kids outside, and get them walking, but entertain them and improve literacy rates with increased reading practice.
A community garden is also planned for the east side of town near the Grove Street rec.
Much progress has been made in improving and refurbishing the recreational facilities in Winnfield since the Winnfield Parks and Recreation Board began its work, although it has been slower than Mrs. Chevallier would have liked, and more to come. In addition to making decisions about the best use of the first Rapides Foundation grant for parks and recreation, the board has obtained additional grants from the Foundation and other sources. More improvements are on the horizon, so get outside, Mrs. Chevallier says, especially now that the spring season is here, and use the local parks for your activities, exercising and recreational enjoyment, visit the sites of the community gardens and see what is going on there, and join a group of compatible people who will help you stay active and involved in your community.
The Rotary meeting was adjourned, as customary, with the motto, “Service above self!”