By Paige Nash
The Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Commission (WPCVC) received the design plan from the Louisiana Tech School of Design, which included a suggestion of expanding the 11-acre property by purchasing additional land or having it donated to WPCVC. This land parcel under consideration is located on East Union Street.
“Originally the suggestion was to have parking on-site, but they did not want to take away from any of the green space,” said WPCVC Executive Director Serena Gray. “If we were able to get this space, then that would give us on-site parking.”
The land being considered is currently owned by Minden local and owner of Preferred Materials, Inc., Kary Bryce.
Commissioner Ty Pendergrass spoke with Bryce about the possibility of him either selling or donating the property to the WPCVC.
“He (Bryce) said he would certainly sell it to us. He would like to get his money back and said he did not have any need for it,” said Pendergrass. “Later this year, he may have a need for a tax write-off and be able to donate it.”
Another location that the board is considering would be the land where the old Church’s Chicken restaurant was located before it closed.
“I think after people see the design plan, they will get excited to be a part of what we are doing, so who knows who else will want to jump in on this project,” said Gray.
A virtual meeting between members of the tourism board, design students and director, Kevin Singh, was held a couple of weeks ago to discuss the projected concept.
The students considered the history of the parish when producing this plan which includes infrastructure built with bricks to represent the brick road through the City of Minden and lumber to represent the old sawmill.
The projected plan includes playgrounds, walking trails with various levels of intensity, amphitheaters in front of Sheppard Street, restrooms, food truck area and a dog park segmented into areas for large dogs and small dogs with water stations.
Another recommendation includes the installation of a zipline tower.
“We have been told it is secure and safe,” said Gray. “It is not something people would be able to access on their own. You would have to have a worker to help with paperwork and to get people on and off the zipline.”
The next step for the board is to host another roundtable discussion to begin prioritizing their next steps and breaking down this plan into phases in order to establish realistic goals, along with receiving bids on various projects within the entirety of this concept.
“Do we want all of these things? What are the non-negotiables? We may have to engage with an architectural firm to do the actual work,” said Pendergrass. “This is a concept that we did not have to pay for from Louisiana Tech. This is to give us something to go forward with and see what stuff is going to cost and how realistic it is.”
Pendergrass suggested pursuing the start-up of a sister non-profit organization that the public could “gift” to.
“Maybe like the ‘Friends of Miller Quarters.’ People could gift services and gift money. We as a commission are a non-profit, but there would be more flexibility if it was a separate organization,” said Pendergrass. “I just think we need to keep that separate from our tourism dollars.
Commissioner Sara McDaniel made the suggestion of hiring a project manager to organize and oversee the future of this project.
She said, “Serena and Johnnye (Kennon) are already working at full capacity. Would it move faster if we hired somebody to project manage this? I don’t want us to be here next year and nothing is done.”
The board has plans to strengthen their partnership with the City of Minden and continue to work together to make this project a success for both the board and the city.
“Maybe they have a project engineer or if they hire an economic development person, they can dedicate some time towards this and we can work on this together,” said Gray. “But all signs point to – we need help.”
McDaniel is going to oversee coordinating with the city to find a person who can dedicate time to managing this project.
A date for the roundtable discussion has not been set at this time.