If you haven’t heard, the Jefferson Parish Parks and Recreation Department (JPRD) recently revealed plans to redesign and repurpose six parish playgrounds. Citing lack of enrollment for recreational sports, the Parish has devised new plans for those playgrounds with fewer participants. One such playground is Johnny Bright, where I grew up and where my boys currently participate in intramural sports year-round. This decision personally impacts my family, and while I’m saddened by it, I understand how it came to be.
For years, Bright and other JPRD playgrounds have experienced a decline in registered participants in organized sports, as many families have abandoned neighborhood playgrounds in favor of “travel ball” teams. I understand the decision to reimagine the future of the playgrounds, and as I’ve witnessed declining numbers season after season, I’m not surprised. However, it seems many families in the community were caught off guard, expressing their outrage at different meetings with local government and JPRD directors over the past two weeks. Their pleas have been heard—for now. Plans for redesign have been put on hold with the Parish promising to conduct further research and assess community needs. If you are upset about the potential changes coming to JPRD playgrounds, I implore you to show up for our playgrounds. A social media hashtag won’t be enough. I’m asking you to put your money where your mouth is. Here’s how.
Sign up for a sport, and sign up on time. The playground depends on timeliness to make teams appropriately and devise the season schedule.
When you sign up for a season, commit to it. If your child registers, please come to the practices. Don’t just show up for games. Stay the course; don’t drop out mid-season. If you know your child will be absent, on vacation, etc., let the coaches know as soon as you register. This helps avoid lopsided teams where several players might have scout meetings or vacations at the same time.
Sign up to coach or help coach. You don’t need to have played a sport at a high level — or at all — to be an asset. My husband coaches every sport in some capacity. I’ve also coached my boys’ baseball and soccer teams. Neither of us played ball past elementary school, but we still had much to offer. I’ve even seen grandparents step up. We all know raising kids takes a village, and coaching kids sports is no different.
We’re signed up. Now what?
Join the Booster Club. You don’t have to be a major donor (though if you’re able, funding is always welcome). Volunteer to work the concession stand or collect admission fees at tournaments. Think of any talents or resources you have, and offer those to the park. That leftover paint taking up space in your garage could be useful in sprucing up the press box. Reach out to people you know. Maybe you know a guy who can print jerseys for a reasonable price or have a friend who might want to advertise his small business in center field. Get involved, and recruit others to contribute.
Jefferson Parish is giving us a chance to rescue our playgrounds. Now is the time to show the Parish that we need our playgrounds and that we’re willing to do what it takes to sustain them.