LaFayette Park could expand

Published 6:47 pm Thursday, May 30, 2019

LaFAYETTE  — A five-acre city park that opened in LaFayette in 2018 could expand into a 50-acre city park that would be a landmark in the center with a central entrance off Avenue A and 4th Place.

Elise Cormier of SmartLandscapes DesignWorks, LLC, of Marietta, Georgia, spoke to the LaFayette City Council Tuesday about moving forward with the process to secure funding for the rest of the park.

Cormier suggested creating a board of directors to oversee the park and be the leaders in fundraising. She said the park will cost about $6 million to have everything the city said it wanted during fact-finding events in 2016 that generated a master plan.

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Although $6 million sounds like a significant number, Cormier said that shouldn’t be the upfront focus.

“How much the cost is doesn’t really matter tonight,” she said. “Who is going to be on the team to carry out this plan, the business plan and fundraising plan and who is going to be in for the long run to carry this plan into fruition?”

The first portion of the park has a playground, picnic pavilion and parking. It was all paid for with a grant from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. There was also additional funding for playground and adult fitness equipment from the Chambers County Extension Agency, Chambers County Coalition on Obesity and the Chambers County Development Authority.

That first five-acre park is supposed to be a preview to the larger project. There was a master plan created after a series of public open houses where LaFayette residents voted for their favorite features and what they would want to see in a park.

The final design, shown at Tuesday’s meeting, showed a festival field, community event center, nature trails and boardwalks, activity field, track and sports fields and several picnic areas.

“This is a community and citizen-designed park,” Cormier said. “Everything that is in here is something the community said they wanted and it is located in places where the citizens said they wanted.”

Cormier said according to the National Recreational and Park Association, there are economic development perks that come along with a new park. Such perks would be attracting new families and new businesses because those people want an upgraded quality of life for employees and families.

However, most of the work starts with creating a “top-notch” board of directors, Cormier said. Board members would be people from the LaFayette community who are successful in their current profession and have a strong desire to see LaFayette and the park succeed, she said.

“This is a long-term investment for the citizens and the city, and it could create something that would last for 100 years and could be the heart and soul of LaFayette,” she said

After the board of directors is created, that group would hire a park manager. The manager would oversee all aspect of the park and hire paid staff. Cormier said she strongly recommends the staff be paid because it would ensure the people working are committed to caring for the park.

Cormier also suggested seeking out a volunteer team of individuals who would be “friends of the park,” who would take on a specific project and manage a particular segment of the park.

Mayor Barry Moody said several people in the city of LaFayette want to see this park happen.

“We need a place where we can have events here, and they would be ours,” he said. “It is time that we do what we need to do.”

He said the more the council can accomplish and get installed in the park, the more people will show up and then there would be more interest in the park.

“There are some corporate sponsors out there that have been waiting to see this,” Moody said.

For more information on the park, visit