CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - After much discussion, the Caddo Parish Commissioners voted to allocate $1 million to the Caddo Common Park project.
The commissioners were initially slated to vote on an ordinance to appropriate $500,000 for the next three years to build the park to total $1.5 million. However, the money would only be allocated under the condition that private dollars match the public dollars and the City of Shreveport maintain the park.
Not all commissioners were completely on board with the idea of allocating $1.5 million to the park. They spent more than an hour discussing the issue, some commissioners like Doug Dominick suggested lowering the amount to $750,000.
But his amendment failed. Steven Jackson first suggested lowering the amount to $1.2 million, then $1 million.
"Don't sabotage the project, don't sabotage opportunity. We have the money!" said Jackson to the board.
"Either we're going to grow or we're going to die. We need to make an investment in the community!" said Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne.
More than a dozen Caddo Common Park supporters showed up to ask their commissioners to vote yes to fund a portion of the park. Caddo Common Executive Director Wendy Benscoter says 400 people signed a petition in support of the Caddo Commission funding the project.
"The turnout has been remarkable, the number of people that want to sign the petition, to get online to fight for this," said Benscoter.
Supporters say the park will re-energize an otherwise run-down area. The green space will feature a fountain, and an area for food trucks, also a sculpture garden, and a pavilion.
"Certainly as a downtown resident I would like to see this park happen myself," said Chris Lyon, who feels the park will be a great way to give the downtown community more of an identity.
"What ties a community together are the spaces in which they can gather, so I think having this park would be a great anchor for that," said Lyon.
Supporters cheered loudly when it was announced the ordinance passed to allocate $1 million over the next three years. However, the money won't be allocated until $1 million in private dollars is raised.
"We have to give big kudos to the Caddo Commission, what they've done today is enable us to make great change in the city," Benscoter said. "The challenge is now we have to go out and match the funding with private money and we know we can do it. We are going to do it, we're going to do it this year."
According to Benscoter, they are eager to get the project started.
"The area has been broken concrete for 20-50 years, the developers are ready, the neighbors in the area are ready, and the community is ready," said Benscoter.
"I think if people become more engaged at finding out what their city wants to do and that the citizens are asking for, then we can all build a better city," said Lyon.
The park needs a total of $3 million to be built.