Residents unhappy about condition of MLK park

Published 12:41 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

Some Lake Arthur residents aren’t happy about the conditions and lack of improvements of a park in their neighborhood and want something done about it.

The group of fed-up residents showed up at Wednesday’s council meeting to voice their frustrations over neglect of maintenance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, also known as West End Park, and how money allocated to the park is being used. The residents say the park, located at the corner of G.C. Chaney and Sixth Street, is an eyesore and unsafe after years of neglect.

“It’s alarming and concerning that the attention the park needs is not happening,” resident Rochelle Turner said. “We’ve been up here several times to get these things addressed and we keep getting the runaround.

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“We’re hearing make Lake Arthur beautiful….. It is all of Lake Arthur. You have been tasked to service all of Lake Arthur and that’s the only thing we are asking for is fairness, what’s right and justice.”

Among its list, the group says the park needs improved restrooms, lighting, new equipment and an updated concession stand.

Resident Evelyn “Sue” Robinson, who was escorted from the meeting by police after angrily shouting at the council and disrupting the meeting, said council members make promises they do not keep.

“We don’t get anything but leftovers from up here,” she said.  “We’re taxpayers just like everybody else.”

Resident Phyllis Robinson said the park has been in bad shape for years and she wants to see changes.

Turner said administration after administration have made promises for the park, but nothing is done.

“There are always promises made, but the park gets the short end of the deal,” she said.

She said the group will continue to attend meetings until changes are made.

The group says the park needs lights to be installed to hold activities at night, restrooms need to be repaired, the concession stand needs to be brought up to safety codes, a cover needs to be installed over the basketball court to protect children and a drinking fountain added. Items in the park also need to be painted, mold removed from equipment and rotten wood replaced.

Turner said she was told new tables and benches were ordered for the park, but they are not currently there.

Mayor Poncho Lejeune acknowledged the need for improvements, but said the town does not have the manpower or money.

The town is currently working to address problems with lights and is seeking quotes to repair the restrooms, including replacing the toilets and sinks. Quotes are also being sought to repair a damaged fence surrounding the park.

Lejeune, who has been in office for one year, said the town spent nearly $125,000 at West End Park last year to install a new set of swings, a merry-go-round, a maypole and turf for the playground.

Funding for the project was part of a $225,000 state-funded grant awarded to the town to improve both the Lake Arthur Park downtown and the West End Park on the town’s western side. The town matched the grant with $69,000 of its own revenue, according to the mayor.

The lowest bid for the project was $215,000 which was amended by $13,000 to replace mulch with turf at both parks

Improvements were made at Lake Arthur Park to include a new swings, merry-go-round, benches and tables, as well as turf at a cost of nearly $200,000.

“There’s more kids playing in these parks now than I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

Lejeune hopes the town will be able to seek additional grants for the parks, but cautioned that grants require matching funds from the town

“The town is not flushed for funds, just like every town is,” he said. “I wish we had a magic wand and could fix it all in one day.”

“I wish we could build more parks, but there’s no funding to do it with.”

The group is also asking the town to provide documents on how the money was spent on the park projects. They say several items in an initial invoice for the West End Park project are not in the park.

After the meeting, Lejeune said the grant paperwork has been audited and no problems were found.

The town will provide an invoice to anyone who is interested, he said.