Does Natchitoches Parish need a SPARC program?

By Nicholas Wright/Opinion

Let me just start by mentioning that during the March 20th Parish Council Meeting, Parish President Nowlin stated that we need to update millage renewals because they are outdated. This is five days before Election Day, and yet nothing happened of it. All this while the Library sits on hundreds of thousands of dollars because they want a capital project that should otherwise be funded through capital campaigns like any good library. Weighted average and specific identification is in order. Hoover-gate is another matter altogether. Anyhow…

Growing up between Branson, MO and Natchitoches, LA gave me a unique southern experience. One I would not trade for the world. There is actually a lot of similarities between the two areas. It is almost eerie. I would be the first to argue that our Middle America has the best history compared to the 13 colonies or anywhere else. Getting straight to the point, Springfield, MO and Alexandria, LA have top-notch, one-of-a-kind, urban planning departments. You may have heard of these programs known by the acronym SPARC. These are not regular sports and recreation departments. These newer ones tie-in urban planning and development.

You have your typical sports and recreation programs, your social welfare programs, and the newer urban planning programs. There are also a whole slew of other ‘types’ that would exhaust the subject. A cursory search through the 50 states only produced the two of the type that I am expounding about. It would be wonderful to have this in Natchitoches. I understand neo-liberal development models may seem chilling, but let’s take a look.

Springfield, MO’s SPARC stands for School-Parks are Reaching Communities and was started in August of 1998 by McBride Elementary. It is a sort of greening form of development but also has its sports and recreation. Alexandria, LA’s SPARC stands for Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors and was started in the late 2000’s by Mayor Roy. It is strictly urban development, with sports facilities and parks attached. These programs have been very successful in what they do. Alexandria also has a college coming into town under the program.

What sets Natchitoches apart from other places is that it is the heart of Sportsman’s Paradise. Our roads are a part of this Paradise. I would much rather get around in my truck and go hunting, hiking, camping, or fishing than visit a museum. If you are in a car, forget it. I think the majority would agree on that observation. A SPARC in Natchitoches would sound like Sportsman’s Paradise Access Rural Communities or Structurally Planned Access for Rural Communities. It should just get the consumer to the product without any issue. Natchitoches Parish should be the standard for a deteriorating national infrastructure.

As to funding, it should have been coming from millage. I think the majority would agree on that observation. I received a lot of great feedback on my last article about consolidation. It was not so much that citizens wanted consolidation, but that they (y’all) were in want of ideas. I do not think ideas will help until we have better leadership. We certainly have all of the ideas we could ever need, leadership is only a matter of time and not luck.

Nicholas Wright holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is currently attending graduate school for Public Administration.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to