The town of Haughton has secured a $250,000 matching grant from the Land & Water Conservation Fund Program to pay for a splash pad, pavilion, walking trail, benches and tables for Joe Delaney Memorial Park.
Martha McGee, park committee chairwoman, said the projects have been approved, but they can only build one thing at a time. The first item on their list is the splash pad, followed by three pavilions and shade structures. Then, they will add the walking trail, which will be placed along the perimeter of the park.
“We are thrilled about this grant,” McGee said. “It was a lot of work to get, but it’s going to turn out really, really nice once it’s finished.”
The park has been quite popular since it officially opened in the fall.
“Everyone has just been so excited about this park. Anytime I go by there, there’s always people there,” McGee said. “We wanted it to be a first class park and I think it really is. Haughton has never had one and the town deserves a nice park.”
Residents will see some new construction happening soon. McGee said a benefactor has donated money to build restrooms and that work should start within the week.
Future projects include a sand volleyball court and hopefully another playground piece.
“As money becomes available, we certainly do plan to add some more things to it,” McGee said. “This will definitely give it a nice showing.”
The park was dedicated Oct. 29, 2016 in memory of Haughton native Joe Delaney. The two-sport All-American at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and a Pro Bowl running back for the Kansas City Chiefs died June 29, 1983 while trying to save three children from drowning in a pond near Monroe.
Joe couldn’t swim, but it didn’t stop him from trying. Years after his death, the town wanted to honor his memory with a park, but the funds were not readily available.
That’s when the community stepped up and the funds came in to build Joe’s park.
“It just all started coming together,” McGee said. “He certainly needed to be honored.”
A park was the perfect way to honor Joe, too.
“When [Joe] reached the pros, he said he was going to come back to Haughton and build a park for the kids. Joe loved kids,” McGee said. “Every time I go by there and see the kids playing, I know Joe is looking down with a smile on his face.”
McGee added: “This has been a project has been so worthwhile to us. We’re honoring someone that needed to be honored and giving the town of Haughton a nice park to enjoy. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program promotes broad-scope outdoor recreation, ranging from land acquisition to development of park facilities such as spray parks, ball fields, picnic pavilions and restrooms. LWCF investments secure public access, improve recreational opportunities and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.
The federally-funded program provides 50% matching funds assistance, through grants to state governments and local municipalities.