Michelle Higginbotham / American Press
Last Modified: Thursday, April 04, 2013 5:34 PM
Unbridled laughter and shrieks of pleasure have returned to the east bank of Lake Charles.
The reopening of Millennium Park on the Civic Center grounds late last month has restored not only order, but joy where once there was smoldering ruins and tears of disappointment.
Like a phoenix, the park has risen from the ashes, bigger, better and shinier than its predecessor.
The park is one more chapter in the continuing rebound of the city’s downtown area. Thanks to a voter-approved bond issue, millions of dollars have been invested in giving downtown streets and Bord du Lac Drive on the west side of the Civic Center a major facelift. The reopening of the park adds one more jewel in that crown.
The new Millennium Park is a testament to community involvement and buy-in after a tragic arson fire destroyed the original park more than two years ago. But while timber and nails may have burned, the city’s pride could not be harmed by the malicious mischief.
As has been its tradition in tragedies — both big, like hurricanes, and small, like the torching of this park — Lake Charles residents rallied. City government and civic leaders envisioned a new, improved park. Businesses rallied to contribute money and supplies to overcome the shortfall between the insurance payout for the razed park and the cost of rebuilding a better one. And just like more than a decade ago, young parents whose children would benefit from the park and older ones whose children had left the nest years ago volunteered for the task of rebuilding the park. It spoke volumes when some of the work crews contained teenagers who as children had enjoyed the swings and slides of the original park.
What emerged was a vibrant playground that makes Lake Charles the envy of not only surrounding communities, but visitors from states across the nation. It is, arguably, the premier outdoor children’s playground in the state and beyond.
City officials promise that they are not finished, that more amenities will be added to the park in coming months.
Regardless, Millennium Park is a sphere of equality, a plot where children of all races, creeds, backgrounds and abilities can play and interact.
If you haven’t visited the new vista yet, check out the four-minute video, http://youtu.be/-8CFTSvStak. on the American Press’ website, www.americanpress.com. It captures the scenes from the smoldering park and the extraordinary rebuild, and provides a virtual reality tour through the experience of a 7-year old bounding through some of the the park’s apparatuses.
It’s said that a civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members — including, of course, it children.
If that’s true, Millennium Park says a lot about how people in our community feel about their most valued prize — our youngest generation.
• • •
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.