Robottom: Parks and Recreation improvements address quality of life for residents

Published 12:01 am Saturday, July 18, 2015

Recreation has been a top priority since 2010, and securing a stable funding source was a first and critical step in improving our offerings. Over the last five years, more than $4.5 million has been invested in our community’s recreational facilities, and an additional $6 million of improvements are currently underway.

REGALA Park received $2.8 million of improvements at the complex, including construction of a gym, additional parking and repairs and painting of all other facilities.

At the West Bank Complex, close to $870,000 went toward construction of an airnasium, new restroom facilities, a lighted walking path, a new roadway and additional parking.

Another $100,000 provided much needed upgrades to both the Alex Roland Reese and Castle Drive Pools, while more than $600,000 went toward improvements at the Reserve Boat Launch.

These projects have long been needed and are shining examples of our commitment to improving the quality of life in St. John Parish, making it the best place to live, work and raise a family.

After several failed attempts, St. John voters approved the first millage in parish history to support parish-wide recreation in 2012.

Over the past three years, the millage has generated close to $1 million annually for general operations, maintenance and improvements to existing facilities.

However, these funds were not sufficient to complete capital projects or major improvements, and once again voters put their faith and trust in our improvement plan through passage of a bond issue in 2013.

Allocating funds to Parks and Recreation has allowed the department to initiate additional programs and opportunities for youth, adults and seniors.

Since securing these funds, seven new programs have been implemented, including the Ashley Kelly Swim Program, water aerobics, flag football, open gym/basketball free play, Zumba, St. John Day at Tulane Football & Basketball and tennis lessons.

Improvements have also been made to existing programs like summer camp, baseball and basketball and work is underway to add football and soccer. While some programs are fee-based, others such as the Ashley Kelly Swim Program, water aerobics, open gym and Zumba are free for residents.

We are excited to announce that more than $3 million in improvements and projects from the 2012 Recreation Master Plan are set for construction this year.

Funded through the 2014 Bond Issue, $2.3 million will go toward the following: two spray parks, a dog park, new play sets, gazebos, fitness stations, restroom facilities, Peavine Boat Launch and other aesthetic upgrades at parks throughout the parish. The remaining $300,000 will serve as the match for the Mississippi River Multi-Use Trail and the Timbermill Trail.

Through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) and grant funds through DOTD’s Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP), St. John residents currently enjoy a walking trail along the top of the Mississippi River Levee, which extends from the St. Charles/St. John Parish line to Our Lady of Grace School in Reserve.

Construction of Phase III, extending the trail to West 10th Street will begin this year, while Phase IV extending to the St. James Parish line is in design. Once complete, the $6.1 million trail will extend 21.69 miles or the entire length of the Mississippi River on the East Bank of the parish. The goal of the program is to connect all parishes along the river from New Orleans to Baton Rouge on both sides of the river.

Construction of Phase I of the Garyville Timbermill Trail will begin soon and is expected to be completed within a couple of weeks.

The project includes a multi-use trail beginning on Museum Street, near the Garyville Timbermill Museum, traveling 1600 feet along the canal bank toward the Kansas City Railroad.

Funded through a Louisiana Department of State Parks and Recreational Trails Program and the 2014 Bond Issue, Phase I of the project is estimated to cost $123,252.

Phase II of the project is expected to go out for bid in October and will extend the path to Highway 54. The final goal of the $413,286 project is to connect the Garyville Timbermill Trail to the Mississippi River Multi-Use Trail.

Both trail projects are the result of true collaboration between the parish, region and state to enhance the health and well-being of our residents.

Residents interested in participating, volunteering, sponsoring or gathering more information about available programs can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 985-652-9569 or visit their office at REGALA Gymnasium, 200 REGALA Park Road in Reserve.

They can also visit the parish website at for a wealth of information regarding Parks and Recreation.

Natalie Robottom is St. John the Baptist Parish President. She can be reached at