Just so happens, in October of last year, Rayne, La., was awarded $32 million Ė let me repeat that, friends and neighbors, Thirty-two million smackers! Ė in Gulf Opportunity Zone (Go Zone) bond financing for the development of Frogland, USA, a major family entertainment complex to be located just off I-10.
Go Zone monies were set up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to aid in recovery and encourage investment to rebuild the economy.
Get this now, and bear with me before jumping to conclusions:
"The 115 acre Frogland, USA family entertainment complex will operate year-round and will include both indoor and outdoor activities with a water park, go-karts, batting cages, miniature golf courses, sporting activities, an amphitheater and more. The main multi-purpose building will be available for conferences and special events. Long-term plans for the development involve the addition of a RV park, hotels, a condo development, restaurants and other ancillary businesses."
Pay very close attention to this next part, boys and girls:
"The development is expected to bring at least 500,000 visitors to the area each year, creating 60 permanent jobs and over 300 part-time positions."
Now, Iím not saying Iíd necessarily like a "Gatorland, USA" or something outside Baldwin or Franklin, but thatís just me. Iíd prefer something a little quieter.
Here, however, is the point. Pay attention, thereíll be a quiz later, the winner gets a thriving community and the loser gets high unemployment and low sales tax collections:
Rayne mayor James "Jimbo" Petitjean said, This kind of project is exactly what the Gulf Opportunity Zone Bond program is all about and it is particularly important to rural Acadiana."
There is a whole passel of money out there being awarded for Frog parks, for the love of Pete. How much Go Zone money has come into St. Mary Parish public coffers, through public officialsí efforts, particularly western St. Mary? Not sure yet, but Iím finding out.
Now, if youíre sitting back and wondering why weíre not seeing some seven-digit, eight-digit checks bandied about in St. Mary Parish, we should all turn east and face Disneyworld (in this particular case, Disney being the fifth floor of the parish courthouse, now under eastern control.)
The notion of Tigre Isle, a resort in Lake Palourde, has been a pet of parish presidents past, perhaps present and most probably future for some time, though itís unclear if such a scheme will ever unfold. But hey, if it does, more power to Ďem.
Between those ideas for Tigre Isle, construction of Idlewild Golf Course, a million bucks in renovations to the AARP building in Morgan City, big-time road improvements and so on and so forth itís obvious no effort whatsoever to develop the economic diversity of this end of the parish is forthcoming from Disneyland Ė er, I mean the parish.
If anything is going to happen on this end of the parish, itís obvious weíre going to have to accomplish it as an autonomous entity, unless things change on the fifth floor by some miracle. Other than burying some pipe and moving some dirt around here and there, weíre on our own.
I would advocate succession and asking the legislature to create an official East St. Mary Parish and West St. Mary Parish, but then Iíll be called divisive, whereas all I did was point the fracture out again. I bet they donít have that kind of silly problem in Rayne.
Whereís Mickey and Goofy when ya need Ďem?
As mentioned earlier, we all have ideas. Donít misunderstand: When I describe what other communities do, I donít mean we should duplicate but rather imitate, except in regards to their ambition and drive. Also, note that many of my ideas are products, naturally, of my own hobbies and likes, and again, Iím not saying go do this Iím saying, look what can be done.
Madisonville, La., is gearing up for the 19th Wooden Boat Festival this coming October. Sure, who around here likes wooden boats besides me and a couple others, anywho?
Thatís not the point. Look at what a community not unlike our own did when they put their mind to it.
Held along the banks of the Tchefuncte River for two days thereís a classic car cruise-in, too, live music of course, artisans and marine and food vendors along the river. Thereíll be a "quick and dirty boat building contest" which I saw once and is fun as all get-out. Thereís a childrenís village and way more.
The whole thing kicks off with a pirate-themed party that Friday night. Tickets are $75 and are routinely sold out.
The patrons canít party too hardy that Friday though because over the next two days they expect visitation to number about 30,000.
You caught that, right? Thirty thousand? To go see wooden boats, is all. Big whoop, huh?
We should be so fortunate.
So youíre saying, "But Stouff, all youíre doing is giving publicity to other places!"
Well, yeah, and they deserve it, too. We could be the talk of the state in turn, if we tried.
Why arenít we?
For what possible, logical reason are we not doing everything earthly possible to create a similar experience right here in western St. Mary?
The silence is deafening, isnít it?