By Paige Nash
The Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Commission board met Monday afternoon for the first of many discussions regarding the future of Miller Quarters Community Park.
Even though the board has received quite a few inquiries, at this time the property cannot be rented to host events due to the board not having all the proper paperwork in place. Then comes the issue of the tourism board being a political subdivision of the state. Since they are funded by tax dollars, they are not allowed to make a profit.
“Is there a cost? We need to know how to book it if someone wants it booked,” said Serena Gray, Executive Director of WPCVC. “As a political subdivision we are not allowed to compete with other venues in town, so we cannot make a profit on what happens out here. We can make money to cover the cost of things, but when it gets to a point where we are making a profit it gets tricky.”
There are a handful of venues downtown that are struggling to stay booked, including Orleans on Main, the Venue on Pearl and Easley Studios Courtyard.
“What position is it going to put us in if we start offering this for free and people are no longer renting from these downtown venues? That’s a topic for discussion,” said Gray.
The park set to host their first big event in April of next year. Just last month the Scottish Society of the Louisiana Highlands made their official announcement that they would be holding their annual Scottish Tartan Festival at Miller Quarters, but much is left to do.
Establishing electricity, water, paperwork for a rental agreement, pulling city ordinance documents and securing the house that is on the property were on top of the to-do list.
Many members shared what their vision was for the future of the park.
“My heart’s desire is to see Miller Quarters be a place to bring our community together. I think we accomplish a whole lot more together than separated,” said commissioner Ty Pendergrass. “
All board members could agree that a multi-purpose park would be ideal, allowing space for large-scale events, but also for smaller occasions like birthday parties, youth group gatherings, picnics, and reunions.
Buddy Myles, local resident, and owner of Seafood Empire expressed his desire for maintaining and commemorating the cultural history of the property.
“I know that rehabbing the structure that is there is a big deal and maybe a plaque or something listing the history of what Miller Quarters was, something about the families that lived there and the family that developed that land for that purpose. That is a bulk of what I have gotten from the people who actually lived there,” said Myles.
Plans to designate the property as a historical site with the Louisiana Preservation office are in the works, along with the possibility of having it added to the Civil Rights Trail which spans 15 states with more than 100 locations. Louisiana currently has 5 destinations along the trail in New Orleans, Bogalusa, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Alexandria-Pineville.
Commissioner Tracy Campbell suggested putting out a survey offering the community a way to share their opinions.
He said, “We can ask, ‘what is most important to you’ with multiple choices, but also a place where they can type their thoughts. Let us just open a window where the survey is available to complete in a 30–45-day period, then close that window. Afterwards, we can meet and discuss what was at the top.”
The board plans to meet again before the end of the year for their second round of discussions.
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