Breland creates new waterwheel for park
Published 5:49 am Friday, February 24, 2017
Terry Breland has always enjoyed the waterwheel at Cassidy Park, often using it as a backdrop for photographs of his classic cars.
Last year, he noticed that the historic wheel was in rough shape, and decided he wanted to do something about it.
“I’ve heard that this waterwheel is the most photographed item in Washington Parish,” he said. “I went over there last year and it was all broken down and dilapidated — beyond repair.”
Breland took it upon himself to construct a new waterwheel out of treated lumber, and it will be installed this morning at 9 a.m. at the park.
He said it took about four to five weeks to build the approximately 8-foot tall structure. Breland noted that it was a challenge, because there was not a lot of research available about how the original wheel was built and acquired.
“The best we can figure is that a woman donated the original to the park years ago,” he said. “I looked for history on the original one as I started doing this project, but there really wasn’t much history to be found.”
Breland reached out to Kay Kay Varnado in Mayor Wendy Perrette’s office, and received the blessing to build the new waterwheel.
Of course, the most attractive wheel in the world isn’t useful if it doesn’t spin properly. So, Breland ran a test last week to make sure the structure was working and in balance.
He set up a 12-foot ladder and ran a waterhose from the top, simulating the water path of the actual wheel. Breland discovered that the wheel was actually slightly off balance, but made the modifications and it now works properly.
“When I first turned on the water, it was going really fast and the wheel was spinning extremely quickly,” he said, with a laugh. “It was actually kind of scary to see it spinning out of control. But then I turned the water down and it worked great. I’d say a pencil stream of water will turn it — it doesn’t take much.”
Breland said he has had a love for woodworking his entire life. In fact, he built a king-size bed when he was 17 years old that has lasted more than 30 years, and which he still uses today. He works in real estate and does much of the carpentry for his buildings, as well.
“I’m not a carpenter technically, but I think I can do it pretty good,” he said.
Breland said that he wanted to give something back to the community, especially the young people. He notes the way that children’s eyes would light up when they viewed the old waterwheel, and wanted future generations to have that same sense of wonder.
“If you can imagine yourself as a young kid, you can see just how massive and impressive this wheel looks to them,” he said. “To a small child, it’s something they can see and use their imagination to think about.”