(07/28/20) TALLULAH, La. — Community members in Tallulah gathered virtually for a four-day online Complete Streets, Complete Communities workshop hosted by Smart Growth America and facilitated by Madison Parish Healthy Communities Coalition.
During the workshop, the group discussed plans to establish a “pocket park” and install 24 crosswalks that will better connect local pedestrians to everyday destinations such as grocery stores, pharmacies, childcare sites and the post office. The workshop also focused on better understanding the need for complete streets and equity in the community.
“Before I attended the Complete Streets, Complete Communities workshop, I really didn’t know what to expect from the meeting since I didn’t have any extensive experiences with the group. However, ‘complete’ is truly what the presentation was from start to finish,” said Lynelle Dixon, a Madison Parish Healthy Communities coalition member.
“No stone was left uncovered,” she continued. “The team was courageous and forward-thinking enough to provide space for us to engage in relevant but difficult conversations. One of the most profound things I learned was about transportation system processes and the historical, systemic decisions that were made related to poorer communities and communities of color. Seeing that evidence-based truth on a national, statewide and local level was overwhelming, but by having that foundation laid, Madison Parish can move forward with more tools in their toolbox.”
The coalition and the City of Tallulah plan to host several events surrounding this project, including a community-wide walk audit, a dedication ceremony at the new park and an annual community event to promote the park and crosswalks.
“We are excited to work together as a community to enhance our public spaces,” said Yvonne Lewis, administrative assistant for the City of Tallulah and a member of the Madison Parish Healthy Communities coalition. “We hope this project helps revitalize our city by enhancing its walkability and connecting visitors and residents with local businesses.”
This community project is part of the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative, which aims to improve the physical and social environments that influence health using a community-driven approach. As part of the Healthy Communities initiative in Madison Parish, this project seeks to increase access to physical activity opportunities in Tallulah by enhancing the built environment.
“Making our roads safer and more accessible to everyone in the community is important to our coalition,” said Joy Sims, AgCenter agent for Madison and Tensas parishes. “We want the crosswalks and pocket park to help move Tallulah in a healthier direction by creating more opportunities for safe physical activity and active transport.”
The proposed park would be located along Oghbourne Street next to a post office. A pocket park, also known as a parkette, is a small public park with basic amenities such as benches, water fountains and greenery.
The Madison Parish Healthy Communities coalition and the City of Tallulah plan to work together to establish the pocket park as a botanical garden and natural walking trail. The land for the proposed park was donated by the family of William Rountree.
Rountree was a prominent member of the community and the owner and editor of the Madison Journal for more than 50 years. The donated land was the original location of the Rountree family home.
“Mr. Rountree’s family has given the community an incredible gift by donating the land for the pocket park. We are now seeking additional funding for park amenities like a fence, drinking fountain, dedication plaque for Mr. Rountree and walking trail materials,” said Jane Sanders, of the Madison Parish Police Jury. “We welcome support from any community members who would like to get involved.”
Funding to paint the crosswalks will be provided in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the group is still working on identifying funding to transform the donated land into the pocket park the community has envisioned.
“In our work with Complete Streets, Smart Growth America collaborates with communities small and large from all corners of the country,” said Emily Schweninger, deputy director of Smart Growth America. “In Tallulah, we found an energized and engaged community ready to jump right into the task of making walking, biking and rolling to local destinations enjoyable and safe. With this kind of local commitment, we look forward to seeing great things in the coming months.”
More information about this project is available from Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-574-2465.
Madison Parish Healthy Communities Coalition gathered for a meeting prior to the pandemic. Coalition meetings are now being held virtually until further notice. Photo by Sarah Sims/SU Ag Center
Land donated by the family of William Rountree to the City of Tallulah for a new park. Photo by Charles Brown/Equitable Cities