Residents of Vernon Parish were able to get a first look at the parish's comprehensive plan at the Plan Vernon Parish open house Tuesday at the Old Courthouse in Leesville.


Residents of Vernon Parish were able to get a first look at the parish's comprehensive plan at the Plan Vernon Parish open house Tuesday at the Old Courthouse in Leesville.

The open house, which was the first public viewing of the full draft of the comprehensive plan, allowed residents to view the details of the plan as well as talk with project members about questions they had.

Project members said that one of the main goals of the open house was to develop a sense of what the public wanted.

"We want to get the people's thoughts on everything," Liz Drake, Project Manager of Plan Vernon Parish, said. "Then we'll take that back and develop implementation plans."

The comprehensive plan outlines the parish's goals for the next 20 to 30 years. The parish has set goals for areas such as transportation, economic development, and housing. The committee will then decide what goals need to take priority over others. Drake said that the public’s comments will help in those decisions.

ìWe want to get the public’s sense of priorities,î she said.

Drake said that the committee’s next step is to organize the public comments and then develop a plan which will identify short, medium, and long-term goals. However, she said that not all of the projects will need classification.

"Within the plan itself, there will be pieces that develop themselves," Drake said. "This helps lay the groundwork for the project."

Drake said that one of the biggest things people have said needs to be a priority is the infrastructure, especially in Leesville and around the lakes. She said that people also want to see more retail and entertainment in the parish.

"They want to see more things here," Drake said. "People don't mind driving to Leesville for a sit-down restaurant," Drake said.

Examples of some of the committee's recommendations include:

-Create an off-post, Joint Continuing Education Center at an underutilized school building.
-Expand retail and entertainment offerings to capture more consumer spending within the parish and to leverage the presence of Fort Polk
-Explore opportunities for a parish-wide small convention center and hotel
-Prioritize the extension of a centralized water distribution line to the Evans K-12 school complex.

The implementation plans, which will better identify short, medium, and long-term goals, will be completed by early July, Drake said.

Residents who were unable to attend the open house last night are encouraged to take a survey online at www.planvernonparish.org. The full plan can be viewed on the website as well.