Conservation fund benefits tri-parish region

Published 12:10 am Saturday, July 25, 2015

LULING — The last few years have been good ones for parks in the River Parishes.

St. Charles Parish has created new facilities, like Rathborne Park, and expanded existing ones, like Killona Park.

A key factor in these improvements is a 50-year-old law many Americans have never heard of.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was passed by Congress in 1964 for the express purpose of protecting public lands and waters for outdoor recreation. Since then, the LWCF has funded thousands of national, state and local projects across the country.

Louisiana moved quickly to take advantage of the Fund, submitting a new plan for state parks in 1965. The LWCF helped create two national parks in Louisiana, one of which (Jean Lafitte) has units in six parishes. Twelve National Wildlife Refuges have also benefited in the state, providing prime areas for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

The LWCF works through partnerships and utilizes matching grants at the state level. These are managed by the Office of State Parks in Louisiana.

St. James Parish has funded eight projects through the LWCF, sponsored by the School Board, Parish Council, the Gramercy Recreation District and the Town of Lutcher.

The LWCF has enabled St. Charles Parish to improve three parks through multiple phases of their development. Ama Park was the first in 1981, sponsored by the Police Jury. Killona Park has been awarded grants for three phases of planning, totaling more than $300,000. These grants have supported baseball fields, lighting, pavilions and parking lots.

Rathborne Park’s first phase of development was helped by a LWCF grant, with a ball field, playground equipment, bleachers, pavilions and parking. The design for the second phase is being finalized and will include another ball field, bike racks and additional parking.

Holly Fonseca with St. Charles Parish Government credits the Land and Water Conservation Fund with providing substantial improvements to local parks and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

These efforts demonstrate the diversity of projects the LWCF has supported in Louisiana, ranging from National Parks to neighborhood ball fields. Even if you haven’t heard of it, the benefits of the LWCF can be seen all around the community.

Learning about the LWCF is important at this time, because the law is up for reauthorization in Congress. The LWCF is funded through offshore oil production revenues, rather than tax dollars, and utilizes those resources to improve local quality of life.

— By Doug Daigle