Five grants were awarded by the Morehouse Tourism Commission last week. When the idea for awarding grants to encourage tourism into Morehouse Parish first began over a decade ago, more funding was available. Although, funding is less due to economical woes suffered nationwide, making grant awards smaller, the commission encourages grant requests from groups and organizations for projects that will keep Morehouse Parish in the limelight.

Morehouse Parish is unique and offers unique opportunities to visitors, and while not glitzy like Bourbon Street, they are family oriented and geared to appeal to all ages. Morehouse Parish is rural, but close-knit. Over time, with budget cuts and less funding available, the board presiding over the presentation of grants recognizes each project that makes Morehouse Parish better, is a plus. You sprinkle enough sugar on top the cake, and you have icing.

The icing on this grant-period’s cake is presented to five organizations promoting Morehouse Parish, each in its own way: Clarklea Garden Club, Rose Theatre, Friends of the MAC, Snyder Museum and Keep Morehouse Beautiful.

Clarklea Garden Club has begun what will be an ongoing project, creating a Walking Trail in Clarklea Subdivision. The walking trail will be paved with lighting, four bridges to allow crossing the ravine that runs through the property, a gazebo, benches, trash receptacles and a woodsy landscape in keeping with the nature of the property, all within the green space set aside for playgrounds when Clarklea subdivision was established. The results will be a safe, clean and aesthetically pleasing environment for people of the city and parish, including visitors, to meet and exercise on a regular basis.

Marilyn Decker explained that the funding from the grant would be dedicated to the purchase of materials for constructing the four bridges and gazebo. She pointed out that the property lies on the south corridor into the city of Bastrop at the city limits sign and is presently unkempt and that benefits of this project will enhance the appearance of the area in addition to adding a much-needed safe area for walking. She said, “To our knowledge, there is no other walking trail in the city.”

The Rose Theatre offers a variety of ongoing events, and its grant request will enable the group to present something different from the usual fare. Sara Holley and Ron Carter explained that since the Rose was once a movie theatre, the idea of a "Movie a Month" series seems quite natural. It will provide an enjoyable, inexpensive entertainment option to the community, filling a void in our region by presenting movie classics, family favorites, and arts films such as live stage musicals, ballet, operas, and independent films. On the immediate agenda will be Grease (1978) in March, Gone with the Wind (1939) in April, Dirty Dancing (1987) in May, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (1967) in June and Top Gun (1986) in July. These films include several dramas; a western and a musical, to kick-start the project.

Holley and Carter stressed that promoting this project will positively affect local businesses such as restaurants, gasoline stations, and retail shops, because the advertising campaign will attract new theatergoers from the surrounding area, thus providing additional sales in a variety of businesses.

Holley said, “Audience members eat before the shows, cast members buy gas, eat and shop here, and the theatre has a practice of buying at home whenever possible.” Carter added, “Projects and activities at the Rose have been shown to make a positive impact on the lives of the citizens of Morehouse Parish, attributing to some of what makes it such an inspiring place to live and work.”

Friends of the MAC (Morehouse Activity Center) have put Morehouse on the map in a most positive manner. A long time in the making, since the MAC has become a reality, it has done nothing but good and more good. A modern, covered arena, it has been used for rodeos, barrel races, team roping, bull riding, a three-day youth bull riding school, concerts, arts and crafts, flea markets, livestock shows, 4-H Club Safety Day training, a circus, and more.

Approximately 10,000 people have attended these various events. The amenities include an office, restrooms, conference room, and concession stand, and an adjacent building housing 175 horse stalls, horse wash racks and restrooms with showers.

Buddy Savage and Jimmy Christmas presented the grant request, stressing the need of a copier and computer for the office, to advertise in our local newspaper and magazines to better reach out-of-state people, and also requested a portion be devoted to prize money awarded––some of which will go to the Margie Worley Memorial Scholarship Barrel Run. Funds generated from this barrel run go into a scholarship fund for area youth.

The Snyder Museum and Creative Arts Center has developed a pictorial display using existing photos from its permanent collection to enhance its Timeline by visually bringing to life the development of Morehouse Parish. Twelve scenes from the past were selected to coincide with the museum’s Timeline by Wes Helbling, Walter Bonner and Joe Cooper Rolfe, local historians.

Funding granted the museum will be paramount in the preservation of displaying these photographic Timelines. Madeline Herring said, “The museum’s request for assistance will enable the creation of a pictorial display featuring reproduced selected scenes, matting and framing, and also, most vital when dealing with photographs, the installation of UV tinting to give more protected display area that will allow for more permanent exhibit space.”

The Morehouse Beautification Inc. dba Keep Morehouse Beautiful has again partnered with Chemin-A-Haut State Park to clean up debris on Chemin-A-Haut Creek and Bayou Bartholomew in preparation for “Boating’ on the Bayou” and for kayak paddling trails. This particular funding request is to purchase six kayaks, eight paddles, and two life jackets that will add to the project of having regular paddling trips down Chemin-A-Haut Creek and Bayou Bartholomew. The organization also supports the “Dutch Oven Society” by bringing visitors to their Saturday cookout event. The kayak paddling trails and “Boatin’ on the Bayou” is already attracting tourists to the area. Chemin-A-Haut State Park is one of the finest parks in the whole state of Louisiana.

“Boatin’ on the Bayou” is scheduled for May 4, dependent on water level of the creek and bayou. A cleanup will be held at the park April 6. "Once the National Parks Service has publicized the paddling trail, tourists will come from all over the country," spokesperson, Vicki Carpenter said, adding, “Together, the regional and the national attraction to kayaking should have a major impact on tourism in Morehouse Parish.”