This spring when some of our state leaders could find nothing better than closing swimming pools at our State Parks to help fix the budget, many parks just padlocked the gates and locked taxpayers out.
Not the Lake D’Arbonne State Park between Farmerville and Bernice. Union Parishes mayors, other elected officials, groups like the Union Parish Tourist Commission and Chamber started rallying the troops. Between them and numerous businesses and individuals, $25,000 was raised to keep the pool open. The result? While state parks around the state suffered lower attendance and bookings, D’Arbonne’s park visits were up 20%. That increase also brought in more money to the rest of the community as those visitors bought gas, groceries, supplies, food at restaurants and more. It was a win-win.
Thursday, it became a win-win-win. State Senator Mike Walsworth and Dwight Landreneau, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Office of State Parks, were in town to present Mayor Stein Baughman and Chamber member Quinton Durr, the head of the fund drive effort, with a check from the State of Louisiana paying back the $25,000.
And now there is another win. The group will return money to donors if they want it. If not, it will be put in a special fund to help promote and help the local state park. Not a general fund. A Lake D’Arbonne State Park fund. Here’s my two cents: Put it in a fund strictly for the State Park Swimming Pool and keep it as a rainy day fund in case this happens again. Unless Louisiana prints some more money, significantly raises taxes or strikes real gold in Tiger Stadium, budget issues are not a thing of past in the state.
A good group of folks gathered at the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office to applaud the presentation of the check. It was a good day.
Landreneau also said that the story won’t stop here. He is speaking at a national State Parks convention this fall and he has already been asked to use the Union Parish success story as a model of a progressive community and it’s State Park working together. Win-Win-Win-Win !