Bogalusa needs to quit paving over paradise

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Editor:

My Easter Sunday was ruined when I passed by our girls YWCA on my way from sunrise services. I noticed the homemade sign announcing the demolition of the beautiful, historic building.

I remember the day camp for boys being held there in the 1950s. I watched our All-American High School football player, Henry Powell, play little league football on the grounds. Even earlier, my first swimming experience was in that cold indoor pool. Later, my own sons took karate lessons in the old gym. Of course, activities for girls from Camp Fire headquarters to aerobics for all ages were in that building. In better days, high school girls walked there for fellowship and as an alternative to the school lunch.

I have fond memories of participating in Bogalusa’s Diamond Jubilee there, thinking I might not be around for the Centennial. Thank the Lord, I as around for that too. By the way, the Diamond Jubilee was much better than the Centennial. Even more recently, I was able to attend jazz concerts there with my now-deceased dad.

I know things must change, but one would have to have his head in the sand not to notice Bogalusa’s downward spiral since the 1950s. Many who enjoyed the better times agree that our rich and unique history is about all we have left. I was at the city council meeting several years ago when attorneys and officials from the hospital asked for a resolution to demolish the building to build a parking lot in exchange for Our Lady of the Angels Hospital building a community center in the city somewhere else.

“Experts” said that the building was in bad condition and was not worth saving anyway.

Our previous mayor and the entire city council bought this hook, line and sinker. Not me. I crawled under the building, seeing the tremendous creosote supports, stronger and better than any available today. I agree that the old indoor pool area and the gymnasium in the back were not worth keeping, but the front half of the building was in excellent condition and could serve a useful purpose for the hospital and our community. (There is plenty of parking space in the back and north of the building).

One of Bogalusa’s worst problems is the addictions our people suffer from. It would be great to have a single location where citizens could at least get information about what services may be available to them. From tobacco to cocaine, alcohol to gambling, people want help and don’t know where to turn. Addictions do not discriminate — wealthy, poor, black and white all suffer. The YWCA building could have provided this centralized location.

I recently stood in front of YWCA with a protest sign, which is a statement from me and many others who love Bogalusa and think we still have a chance to rise from the rubble we are now in.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is a line from a song penned by folk singer Joni Mitchell back in April 1970. The song “Big Yellow Taxi” describes so aptly what is going on here. Really, does little ol’ Bogalusa need another parking lot more than a useful historic building?

Just one more thought about the many times Bogalusa shot itself in the foot. The beautiful five-star hotel, the Pine Tree Inn was demolished and left-over rubble shoved into its own beautiful lake around 1960 to make room for a strip mall and another, you guessed it, parking lot. As a tribute to this shot in the foot, we now have an empty parking lot and a strip of empty buildings, just east of Bogalusa City Hall.

These thoughts are written on my 70th birthday.

Terry “Foots” Quinn