Recreation complex gets a name

Published 8:41 am Sunday, February 3, 2013

Washington Parish Recreation District 1’s planned 115-acre facility now has an official name: Atoka Recreation Complex.

Recreation District Chairman Johnnie Daniel said the search for a name began in the early summer when community suggestions were sought. Approximately 50 ideas were submitted, primarily from locals. However, he said several were submitted from different parts of Louisiana and a few from parish natives transplanted to other states.

In the fall Daniel compiled a list of all the suggestions, without including the names of those who had submitted them. The list was reviewed by the board members and narrowed down to the top five contenders.

Then, at the board’s most recent meeting in January, the final choice was made, with the selected name having been submitted by board member Damon Smith.

A Choctaw word, Atoka means “fair playing field,” Daniel said, adding the name is representative of the park and the area.

“We wanted something unique and something that kind of related to the area, and that’s how we chose Atoka,” he said.

Daniel said construction of the project’s phase one, which will have an estimated cost of $300,000 to $400,000, can proceed as soon as clearance is given by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Since Washington is one of three parishes that is a possible habitat for gopher tortoises, the department intends to conduct a survey to make sure the Atoka site, located outside Franklinton at the intersection of Louisiana Highway 25 N. and Pico Road, is clear of the endangered species, he said.

Daniel hopes the survey can be completed within two to three weeks, depending on how quickly a representative from the department is able to complete the process of walking the land to check for gopher tortoise habitats.

“It won’t take long for somebody to walk the property,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how soon they can go in and do that.”

Phase one plans call for soccer fields, parking lots and the recreation complex’s entrance to be built, Daniel said. Including capital outlay funding and a $200,000 matching funds grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the money is in place for the construction of this phase. After that, the board will apply for another Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, submit additional capital outlay applications and “go from there,” he said.

The sometimes less-than-ideal pace of government, Daniel said, makes exact timelines hard to determine. But he said the project is progressing well overall.

“All of our board members have been dedicated and are working hard,” he said. “We’re going to bring something better to this area. I think the area and the people deserve it.”