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Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017

C. Bickham Dickson Park

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Citizens and organizations unite to bring beloved 585-acre park back to life

One of Shreveport’s beloved parks is open after years of closure, thanks to the voices and support of the dedicated local community.

C. Bickham Dickson, a 585-acre park, was first established in 1983 and served as a peaceful, scenic escape. Locals could come fishing, enjoy the call of the birds across the open water and jog the winding trails. Photographers would flock to host sessions in the open fields while families and colleagues would organize games of disc golf.

The park, located on East Bert Kouns near the intersection of East 70th Street, is initially nearly hidden from view, as the driveway descends down a steep hill off East Bert Kouns. High waters from the Red River easily flood the area – and eventually did so to the park’s detriment. C. Bickham Dickson closed in 2015 after a series of major flooding. The once-thriving community hotspot quickly became a hazard barricaded by the city for safety purposes. Where locals used to walk and play, swampy wildlife grew thick and unruly.

According to a 2016 report by the assistant director of Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR), the future of the park remained unknown and unprioritized.

Locals such as Adam Harbuck, owner of Harbuck Outdoor Sports, grew frustrated, taking their aggravation public on social media. Many expressed their disdain over other city projects getting attention before the renovation of C. Bickham Dickson, such as the recent talk of a sports arena.

Finally, action was taken. “A few of us approached SPAR with a plan to get the gates open, the pier repaired, perform general clean up, construct a kayak/canoe launch and build a gate to close off the back of the park, and we received a very positive response from city leadership,” Harbuck said. “We offered the city an opportunity to work with The Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society, The North Louisiana Fly Fishers and The Bayou Pirate Kayak Fishing Club, as well as local interested citizens in order to open the front of the park so citizens could use the facility safely and not have to park on the busy road.”

On Oct. 7, SPAR partnered with Bayou Chapter of Ozark Society for a combined fish fry and work day. SPAR provided gloves, shovels, trash bags, water and other supplies to get the ball rolling.

Individuals gathered together to put the labor into the project themselves, combining time and effort and resources to start cleaning up the area. The city provided the lumber, and volunteers put in the grunt work.

“SPAR deserves much praise for their efforts,” Harbuck said. “They really did do all of the heavy lifting.”

Ken Harris, member of the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society, enjoys volunteering to improve the community alongside his fellow members. “We safety boat for triathlons, give free canoe/kayak rides at various events, and clean up several waterways multiple times a year,” Harris said. “Restoring functionality to fit in with our spirit of community service. It’s a marvelous park, and it’s a shame it was allowed to reach such a state of neglect.”

Harbuck’s favorite part of the park is three-fold. “C. Bickham Dickson is beautiful, peaceful and tranquil.”

He’s not the only one who thinks so.

Cera Fergie, a Shreveport resident, was just one of many locals to see the restoration project happening and share about it live on social media. Interest quickly flared.

“When I came to Shreveport two years ago, I was looking for some parks to visit,” Fergie said. “I noticed that this huge park was closed, but I’m glad now that it’s open again. I look forward to visiting it soon.”

While the majority of the acreage is still closed off for repairs, the front section is open and available for a stroll down the newly renovated pier, launching a boat or fishing off the grassy banks.

“My vision for C. Bickham Dickson Park is that little bit by little bit, we can restore it to its former glory,” Harris said.

Harbuck would like to encourage the community to keep the park beautiful by doing their part.

“Use it, don’t abuse it, and leave no trace,” Harbuck said. “Please take home more trash than you bring.”

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