(11/20/20) ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site visitors can look forward to several new amenities, including fitness signs, a StoryWalk and a vegetable garden.
“We are always trying to find ways to welcome the local community into Longfellow,” said Christi Disher, manager of Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site. “These new projects add a whole new element to the park. Where we have previously focused on historic elements, we are now expanding our interpretive programs to include nature, health and wellness.”
Thanks to LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities and SNAP-Ed; Eat, Play, Live St. Martinville; Cycle Zydeco; and Transportation Recreation Alternatives In Louisiana (TRAIL), the walking and biking trail now features signs with fitness messages about warm-ups, stretches, bench exercises, trail distances, hydration and nutrition.
“Encouraging physical activity in public spaces benefits the community by developing a social connection or bond with people of the community. It provides enjoyable time to socialize with family and friends in a safe environment,” said St. Martinville Mayor Melinda Mitchell. “Utilizing walking and biking trails will promote physical activity and attract tourism, which can benefit a community economically and socially.”
The StoryWalk, installed by the St. Martin Parish Library, features laminated pages from the children’s book “I Love Autumn (J’adore L’automne)” by Shelley Admont. Families can read through each page of the story in both English and French as they walk along the trail to the Acadian farmstead.
“This partnership is an opportunity to introduce visitors to new books and promote local culture. The French-English book currently on display is a nod to the strong Acadian heritage in the community and to the diversity of books planned for future StoryWalks,” said Susan Naquin, head of programming for St. Martin Parish Library.
“At first glance, outdoor reading and physical exercise seem like an odd pairing,” Naquin added. “However, creating welcoming, diverse and cohesive public spaces is an important factor in any successful community. People of all ages need public spaces to learn, play, socialize and relax. Promoting literacy and an appreciation of reading are paramount to the library. Pairing books with physical activity in the StoryWalk will result in strong minds and bodies, a balance needed for all successful community members.”
The new vegetable garden was planted and will be maintained by the ARC of St. Martin, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities.
The garden will feature broccoli, turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, beets and maybe even a few herbs this fall. The Greauxing Gardens grant program, run by LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kiki Fontenot, provided supplies to get the garden started.
“The opportunity to maintain the community garden at the Longfellow-Evangeline Historic Site gives all ARC day program participants as well as ARC-supported independent living individuals an outdoor activity in the community,” said Joan Cormier, day program supervisor for the ARC of St. Martin. “We also hope the process of planting, growing and eating the vegetables they grow will educate these individuals about the food they eat and lead to a healthier lifestyle. Staff will have ongoing discussions with participates about the nutritional value and benefits of eating the vegetables they grow.”
Cormier noted that outdoor activities like gardening provide an opportunity to remain active and connected while social distancing. The garden also features two rows of bench seating perfect for accommodating field trip groups and families.
These projects are part of the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative, which aims to improve the physical and social environments that influence health using a community-driven approach. The Healthy Communities initiative in St. Martin Parish is facilitated by LSU AgCenter extension agent Jessica Randazzo.
Individuals with questions about walking or cycling in the park can contact Christi Disher at 337-394-3754. More information about the new amenities or St. Martin Healthy Communities is available from Randazzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 337-332-2181.
New welcome sign at the beginning of the walking and biking trail at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville, Louisiana. Photo by Ruthie Losavio/LSU AgCenter
Susan Naquin, with St. Martin Parish Library, poses with StoryWalk pages from children’s book “I Love Autumn (J’adore L’automne)” at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville, Louisiana. Photo by Jessica Randazzo/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter extension agent Jessica Randazzo poses with fitness signs demonstrating simple warm up stretches to perform before a workout at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville, Louisiana. Photo by Ruthie Losavio/LSU AgCenter