(08/02/23) FRANKLINTON, La. — Small projects can have a big impact when it comes to providing people safe spaces for exercising and enjoying the outdoors.
In the Washington Parish town of Franklinton, one of those projects was recently completed. Thanks to the LSU AgCenter, the town government and community partners, several benches along with signs featuring instructions for simple exercises and tips for pedestrian safety have been installed.
The project came about following suggestions from Franklinton Organized Community Unified Supports, or FOCUS. FOCUS is one of three Healthy Communities coalitions in the parish. These coalitions provide residents an opportunity to participate in the AgCenter’s statewide Healthy Communities initiative, which seeks to make policy, systems and environmental changes that promote better health outcomes for residents.
“We held our first FOCUS forum in January 2020 prior to COVID,” said AgCenter agent Valerie Vincent. “At that time, we understood the importance of making small changes to reach a larger goal of changing health outcomes to make our community a healthier one.”
The group has organized walk audits, healthy family days, a community garden, cleanup days, community bike rides and health fairs.
Vincent worked with Weyerhaeuser to fund the benches and signs. The Bogalusa Strong Healthy Communities coalition and Washington Parish Community Connect also participated in the project.
Elected officials offered praise for the group’s efforts during a dedication ceremony July 31.
“This is wonderful to be able to enjoy the outdoors, especially as there is not much outdoor areas for residents on this side of the parish,” said David Anthony, a former parish council member. “These items are going to be a huge asset to the people of Washington Parish and Franklinton.”
State Sen. Beth Mizell said the Healthy Communities initiative has made a positive difference in residents’ lives.
“We had no idea the impact and the importance it would have for our people and we appreciate what Valerie has done,” Mizell said. “The message it sends is that we do value a healthy lifestyle, we do value taking care of ourselves, and for the community to have a role in these new accompaniments is incredible.”
State Rep. Malinda White said the AgCenter’s work to share information on nutrition and physical activity is important.
“It is needed in our area,” she said. “We want to be mindful of our health to be able to live a long life and appreciate all of the resources.”
“I am so happy for the town of Franklinton, and we appreciate you all leaving the town better than what we’ve found it,” added Washington Parish Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal.
Greg Route, the mayor of Franklinton, is looking forward to working on more projects with the AgCenter and the Healthy Communities coalitions. Members are collaborating with the town on plans for a playground, something the town currently does not have.
The playground will be handicap accessible.
“The town now has plans developed and a potential site where the playground could be built on Chess Jones Road,” he said. “It’s going to be a sight to see.”
Several benches along with signs featuring instructions for simple exercises and tips for pedestrian safety were recently installed in Franklinton thanks to the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative. From left are, back row, Armond Barker, Emma Route, Alderman T.J. Butler, former parish Councilman David Anthony, AgCenter agent Valerie Vincent, Sheriff Randy Seal, Candace Bickham, Minister Joe Felder and Jordan Felder. Front row, state Rep. Malinda White, state Sen. Beth Mizell and Franklinton Mayor Greg Route. Photo provided by Valerie Vincent
Greg Route, mayor of Franklinton, and Valerie Vincent, an LSU AgCenter agent, dedicate new benches and signage July 31. Photo provided by Valerie Vincent
State Rep. Malinda White demonstrates exercises that can be done using new benches that were recently installed in Franklinton. A sign near the bench provides instructions for the exercises. Photo provided by Valerie Vincent