A GROUP from Franklin Parish Economic Development spoke to the Winnsboro Town Council. (Sun photo by Joe Curtis)

A Como Charitable Foundation Inc. grant funding the revitalization of Davis Park was applied for by the Winnsboro Town Council.

In a special-called Sept. 15 meeting, Town Council members voted 3-1 in favor of the $250,000 grant application with Keith Berry casting the sole nay. Town Councilman Jerry Johnson made the motion with a second from Tyrone Coleman. Town Councilman Eddie Dunn was absent.

Berry was concerned other Winnsboro parks were being left out of  improvements, but Franklin Parish Economic Development Coordinator Sam Sheppard assured the Town Council member they would be included in future revitalization projects.

Town Councilman Rex McCarthy, who was in favor of the resolution, was also concerned other parks were being left out. McCarthy specifically mentioned fencing around Westside Park and Berry Park improvements.

“We are constantly looking for money to spread out,” Sheppard said. “We are already looking for funding for other projects.

Carmen Sims, Winnsboro Main Street Economic Committee chairman, said parks would be refurbished if funding was found.

“Every park in this town will be looked at, but we will have to find specific funding,” Sims said.

Sheppard also offered to sit down with Town Council members to find out what each park needs and to prioritize recreational wants and needs.

Currently, Winnsboro has a proposed budget of $300,000 for the revitalization of Davis Park. The Como grant would bankroll $250,000 worth of improvements while the remaining $50,000 would come from private contributions.

A large portion of the money, $114,000, will be spent on a rubber surface or USM surface underneath the new playground equipment. 

The rubber surface is a vital part of the park making play safer for children, according to Dr. Marybeth Lima with LSU Community Playground Project. Lima and her group voluntarily toured Winnsboro’s parks in June.

Lima and her classes work closely with communities, especially children, to create unique playgrounds, which are then built by volunteers. Lima and her students have been involved with more than 30 playgrounds.

“We try to find out from the elementary students what their idea is of a dream playground, what they do to play, how they have fun, who they play with,” Lima said in a LSU interview. “For us, it’s important that every playground design expresses the soul of the community. Every school has something that makes it special.”

Additionally, Davis’ Park budget calls for $73,000 worth of playground equipment. The equipment will feature separate school-aged playground and preschool-aged playground.

The budget also calls for bathroom renovations, a small splash pad, perimeter fencing, entry gate and parking lot upgrades.

“We have to start somewhere,” said Mayor John Dumas. “If we get this money, Como will be looking to see if we spend it properly and finish the project. We need to be diligent, so hopefully we will receive future funding for future projects.”

Meanwhile, Town Council members unanimously passed a resolution to apply for another Como Charitable Foundation Inc. grant funding Winnsboro’s walking trail expansion.

McCarthy made the motion with a second from Town Councilman Jerry Johnson.

Budget for the walking trail totals $410,000 and entails three phases, according to Hunter White, member of the Winnsboro Main Street Economic Committee heading up the project.

Much of the budget, $342,000, goes toward construction services. Town of Winnsboro and Franklin Parish Police Jury employees will contribution in-kind work providing labor, stockpiling topsoil and site preparation.

Design, surveying, engineering, inspection, testing and GPS mapping will cost $63,000, according to the budget.

In the first phase, the trail would tie into downtown Winnsboro and travel to the gazebo, White said. 

Second phase would go to Winnsboro’s corporate limits and third phase would end the trail at Louisiana Delta Community College (LDCC).

Numerous people walk and bike to LDCC which is located approximately one mile outside of Winnsboro. 

The trail would also give access to governmental buildings, the library and businesses located close by, White said. 

“It is time to start making these things happen,” Hunter said. “Going forward, the park improvement and the walking trail extension will lift Winnsboro up.”

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