David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
LCP is overseeing all of the processes responsible for programming, planning and design, construction, budget and finance, fundraising and public relations. It will eventually operate and manage the park via a longterm lease or cooperative endeavor agreement with LCG.
Calhoun is a Nebraska native and retired printing company executive who has lived in Lafayette since the mid-1990s. He has been involved with the Community Foundation of Acadiana for the past 13 years, recently completing a term as chairman. He is also a member of the board of trustees of Lafayette General Medical Center.
Almost from the outset, the CFA, like the grassroots group Save the Horse Farm, played a key role in supporting the effort to prevent development of the acreage and preserve the space as a park. Calhoun, whose home borders the horse farm property, was among the first CFA board members to encourage the organization's participation; CFA would eventually serve as a launch pad of sorts for the creation of LCP.
Brooks, a founding member of Save the Horse Farm, was named one of The IND’s “Persons of the Year” in 2006, an honor she shared with her best friend and Save the Horse Farm co-founder Danica Adams.
In 2005, Brooks and Adams, then students in UL Lafayette’s Renewable Resources Department, were in Dr. Griff Blakewood’s community-based planning class when they got word that the university was planning to rezone the horse farm acreage to a commercial classification and sell it. They became so emotional that Blakewood dismissed them from class. They quickly channeled their disappointment into an effort to kill the land-swap deal then-UL President Ray Authement was proposing and worked tirelessly toward alternatives that would prevent development of the property.
What the two accomplished over the next seven years was nothing short of remarkable, with City-Parish President Joey Durel eventually stepping forward to propose that the city buy the land and preserve it as a passive community park. Durel found a willing negotiator in UL President Dr. Joe Savoie, who was named to the top post at the university in 2008.
Save the Horse Farm’s passion and fortitude paid off in 2012, when the City-Parish Council voted to buy the property in a cash and land swap transaction valued at $6.6 million.
Brooks has relocated to Lafayette from Houston, where she most recently worked as assistant public information officer for the city of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department; before that she was planning and urban design project manager for Better Houston, a not-for-profit planning and policy group that encourages civic involvement to improve Houston's neighborhoods and overall livability. The 31-year-old is still pursuing dual master’s degrees in community and regional planning and urban design from UT Austin.
“It’s come full circle,” Brooks says. “I’m thrilled and honored to be working in this capacity. The Horse Farm is what inspired me to pursue degrees in planning and urban design.”
Both Calhoun and Brooks say the park will begin taking shape with input from the entire community. The next step, says Calhoun, is a visit from the Urban Land Institute, which LCP has hired to develop an independent and transparent process for soliciting and enlisting that broad community input.