DENHAM SPRINGS -- Thanks to the generosity of some gardening enthusiasts from northern Louisiana, Kidz Korner Playland will soon get a much-needed makeover.
Three groups of the Louisiana Master Gardeners Association recently teamed up to donate a check worth $4,320 to members of the Livingston Parish Master Gardeners (LPMG) for renovations to the Kidz Korner Playland, a playground designed specifically for children with physical, mental or developmental disabilities.
The money, presented to LPMG members under the pavilion at Kidz Korner Playland on a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon, was raised by the Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners (NWLMG, Shreveport), the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners (NELMG, Monroe) and the Piney Hills Master Gardeners (PHMG, Minden).
Or as NWLMG member Lou Osburn put it, it was “all raised by a couple of ol’ gardeners.”
“We just passed around the hat, and everybody pitched in,” she said.
Desiring to actually meet the people they intended to help, Osburn and Tina Kendrick, both from the Master Gardeners group in Shreveport, opted to make the four hour-plus drive to Denham Springs to present the check.
“We didn’t just want to send a check in the mail,” joked Kendrick.
Well, they actually presented two checks.
The large cardboard check, with the names of the three donating groups in the signature, was used for ceremonial picture-taking purposes.
The smaller one, which fit snugly in a plain white envelope, will later be used for groups’ overall purpose — to beautify the 6-year-old park that sits at the corner of River Road and Government Street in Denham Springs.
“That’s a nice souvenir, but here’s the real thing,” Kendrick said with a laugh as she handed LPMG member Sandy LeBlanc the real envelope.
The money, which the groups started being raised back in January, is going toward the Livingston Restoration Landscape Project. The project aims “to replace and improve the landscape and hardscape” at Kidz Korner Playland.
Kendrick and Osburn said their group first reached out to the LSU AgCenter and county agent Kenny Sharpe of Livingston Parish, hoping to assist hard-hit areas following the Great Flood of 2016.
At first, Kendrick said her group originally had “visions of grandeur,” believing they could help address landscaping issues in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Livingston. But those plans never blossomed.
“Although we have great passion, we don’t have a great budget,” Kendrick said.
So instead of stretching their resources thin, the three Master Gardener groups from north Louisiana ultimately decided to assist in beautifying Livingston, since that area was hit hardest by the flood.
It didn’t take long for them to settle on Kidz Korner Playland.
“Your infrastructure is going to be addressed by government agencies and FEMA, so we thought about landscaping because that was a natural fit for our organization,” Kendrick said.
Osburn added: “We decided we wanted to bring some relief to the Master Gardeners and the landscaping because people would take care of their homes on their own. But the plants often get thought about last, but we all believe that’s very important to the culture of the city.
“So a part of this is restoring the beauty in the quiet places.”
LeBlanc, who’s also a member of the Denham Springs Pilot Club that raised $600,000 to establish Kidz Korner Playland in 2011, said there are several upgrades the LPMG has in store for the park.
She wants to clean, mulch and “add color” to the bed at the front entrance; trim up the “raggedy” crepe myrtles, replace and diseased or dead trees in the park; add kumquat, sweet bay magnolia, vitex or loquat trees; add two more benches near the splash pad; repair the back fence and plant Sasanqua Camellia alongside it.
There are other plans LeBlanc and the LPMG have in mind, but they’ll have plenty of time to decide before getting to work on the park in October — or whenever “the weather cools off some for planting.”
LeBlanc said there are talks of adding a canopy over the swings for children with disabilities as well as another pavilion to provide another shaded area.
And though the donation may not be enough to enable LeBlanc to achieve all of her goals, it still “doubled” her expectations.
“I’m speechless at the amount,” gawked LeBlanc. “This was beyond anything I would’ve thought.”
However, Kendrick and Osburn don’t want the relationship between their organizations to end with the check presentation. After all, they are gardeners, and they don’t might getting their hands dirty.
“We invite you to invite us back here so we can actually do the work this together,” Kendrick said.