Teacher Feature: 5 Questions with Ashton Guin

Ashton Guin is the new head softball coach and math teacher at Ruston High School. Guin is a graduate of Louisiana Tech, where she was a manager for the Lady Techsters softball program.

1. Has softball always been part of your life?

My dad was a Little League Baseball coach when I was in elementary, but I didn’t pick up a softball until I was in the seventh grade. Since then, softball has been my passion through high school, travel ball, college and into coaching. 

2. When did you decide to become a coach?

I started coaching at 17, right out of high school, for the 14u team in my organization. As those kids moved up, so did I and I continued to coach that group through to 18u. During that time, I realized it wasn’t just a hobby, but something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Most coaches I knew went the kinesiology route, and so I moved out of secondary math to physical education. P.E. was fun, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me, so I ended up moving into the classroom. Now, ironically, I am teaching high school math and I am just as passionate about teaching as I am coaching. 

3. You were coaching at Byrd, your alma mater. What convinced you to come to Ruston High as a math teacher and head coach?

I always wanted to return to Byrd and to turn it into the program it deserved to be. There were so many coaches over the past 10 years, and I thought with some stability and the potential of the current players, I could turn it around. The program has so much potential.  When the position at Byrd originally came open, I didn’t think I was ready, so instead I passed up on the opportunity and served as the assistant coach for four years. After the fourth year, I knew I was ready to move up. Byrd’s position wasn’t open. I did, however; have opportunities at other high schools and a D3 college in Texas. I was tempted to take the college route until I became aware of Ruston’s open position. Without a doubt, RHS can be a softball powerhouse. Their facilities are beyond anything in the area, the school has an A rating, and they even had a math opening. I couldn’t have found a better opportunity than becoming a Ruston Bearcat. 

4. What has been the biggest surprise or change you are experiencing since joining the RHS faculty?

I will say, the last school I taught at didn’t have stairs! The faculty at RHS has been very welcoming and helpful during my transition and nothing has proven to be difficult thanks to their support. The biggest change is being away from my family, but my softball players and parents are a very close second. I have many coaches I can rely on for assistance and my content and team teachers have my back in the classroom. Principal (Dan) Gressett runs a tight ship here and I couldn’t ask for a better school, colleagues, students, parents or players.

5. Tell us about your coaching and/or teaching philosophy.

My philosophy is to develop players/students who give 100% in everything they do in life AND enjoy doing it. In the end, athletes who aren’t having fun won’t be contributing, and it takes every player to be successful at any level of softball.  I believe in giving everybody the chance to succeed. We focus on working from the ground up, understanding the intellectual and psychological part of the game, and hope that the mentality it creates will lead to winning on the field.

GSU student among artists at HBCUs who created murals interpreting themes in film

Ja’Marcus Willis, a junior visual and performing arts major at Grambling State University, is among student artists at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who brought film to life through art. 

HBCU Buzz, a multi-media company, teamed up with Universal Pictures and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions for the Candyman HBCU Artist Showcase. Six student artists at HBCUs around the country were selected to interpret the social impact and artistry in the film by creating murals.  

The recently released movie is a sequel to the 1992 horror classic. It featured the bee-infested and hook brandishing Candyman character, who frightened movie goers and illustrated the treatment of marginalized people in inner city Chicago. 

The sequel is again set in Chicago – this time at the location of the original Cabrini Green housing projects now gentrified. An unsuspecting artist learns the sad and unjust story of urban legend Candyman and wants to bring the story to life through his art. However, it may prove to be a momentous mistake. The film touches on the present day social climate and injustices. 

Willis’ artwork, titled “Candyman Vision Perspective”, is on display at the campus bookstore. He describes it as “a bee’s reflection of its eyes inside the eyes that show symbolism and descriptions of what the movie is overall about and consists of.” 

Willis, of Springhill, said he got interested in art at a young age.

“It has always been a part of my life and was first a hobby but now it’s my best passion,” he said. “I want to make it a career somehow.”

Willis said he enjoys the creativity and uniqueness of being an artist and feels thankful and blessed for his gift.

Rodrecas L. Davis, head of the GSU Department of Visual & Performing Arts, said Willis is “heavily inspired by graphic design, and street art aesthetics.”

“There’s an immediacy in his work that was perfect for the emotional content of this fil,” Davis said. “The opportunity, which required that students work within the confines of a deadline, collaborate remotely, and synthesize the broader concerns of a topic into a singular image – all things that we push for our majors to experience.” 

Holtz returns to familiar place Saturday

Skip Holtz returns to a familiar setting this weekend.

Holtz and the Bulldogs will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend to face No. 23 ranked North Carolina State. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT and the game can be seen on the ACCN+ or ESPN+.

The Wolfpack (3-1) are coming off a 27-21 double overtime win over previously No. 9 ranked Clemson this past Saturday and Holtz knows his team is in for quite a challenge.

“The task doesn’t get any easier this week,” Holtz told reporters during his normal Tuesday press conference. “Dave Doeren does a great job with that program. He’s been there quite a while and he’s done a really nice job. Right now, he has one of his better football teams that he’s had.

“They had a huge win last week against Clemson. When you look at this football team, the word solid comes to mind. They’re just really solid in everything they’re doing. They’re playing with a lot of upperclassmen.”

Tech (2-2) is coming off a 24-17 win against North Texas Saturday in the Conference USA opener for the Bulldogs. This Saturday’s game marks the final non-conference contest for Tech, which will then have a bye week before playing seven straight league games.

Holtz’s first game as the Bulldogs head coach in 2013 came in Raleigh (NC State won 40-14). Coincidentally, it was the first game for Doeren as head coach of the Wolfpack. Both coaches enter their ninth seasons with their respective programs, tied for the 14th longest current streak among FBS head coaches.

Raleigh holds a special place in Holtz’s memories as his father Lou served as the head coach of the Wolfpack from 1972 through 1975. Lou is still the all-time winningest coach (percentage-wise) in the history of the NC State program.

“There are memories there,” said Holtz. “I was eight to 12 years old when I grew up in Raleigh. I remember the Wolfpack and the huskie dog, and those are great memories for me. It was kind of weird to go back there (in 2013). All of a sudden, I am on the visitor’s sideline. I’m on the other side after spending so much time (on the home side) as a little boy growing up in that program. Great memories for me, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to go back.”

That excitement will turn to competitiveness comes Saturday when the Bulldogs take the field at Carter-Finley Stadium (57,500).

“When you look at it, it’s going to be a tall order for us going to Raleigh,” said Holtz. “But it’s one we’re really excited about getting into this week, stepping back out of the conference, learning a little bit more about our football team. I look forward to watching us compete on the road in a very loud, energetic stadium.

“It’s a great challenge for us this week. After this week, we’ll get into the open date and really have a time to look back and review the first five games and some things we have to do in the second half as we really get into the conference race.”

Piney Hills Harmony Chorus looks to grow its numbers, increase local support

By Alexis Newman

Veterans of the singing community and newcomers alike may find interest in the local singing group Piney Hills Harmony Chorus.

The Piney Hills Harmony Chorus is a part of a global organization called Sweet Adelines International. The chorus is a singing group located in Ruston that does barbershop harmony, which has a 4-part a capella musical structure.

While the members are primarily singers, the group does much more than sing. Sallie Rose Hollis, the assistant director for visual expression, explained the importance of choreography and other forms of nonverbal communication that make the performance entertaining.

“Beyond that, it’s just getting the whole face involved, the expression, and the whole body movement so that we present an interesting image to the audience, and the audience can connect with us,” Hollis said. “We can sell the message of the song through visual expression.”

The Piney Hills Harmony Chorus gets involved in multiple activities, including performing at booked events, the annual regional competition, and educational seminars and events hosted by the regional level of the organization. There are also leadership and social opportunities for members. Hollis said that there’s a saying in the community that goes “come for the music, stay for the friendships.”

“There’s kind of a pull and a tug at peoples’ heartstrings really when they get involved with it,” Hollis said.

Despite all of the opportunities to get involved in, new members are not required to have any musical knowledge or previous experience. The Piney Hills Harmony Chorus accepts members of all ages, and according to Hollis, there’s a part for every voice.

“Each chorus has its own personality, and I think Piney Hills Harmony is a welcoming, friendly chorus— that if someone does want to visit we are just very open to that,” Hollis said.

Any women interested in joining the chorus or learning more about the organization can contact Sallie Rose Hollis at sallierose@mail.com or visit their website pineyhillsharmony.org. Local community members are also invited to support the group by purchasing blizzards from the Dairy Queen on Cooktown Road this Thursday.

Techsters open up team workouts

Louisiana Tech began official team workouts Tuesday as head coach Brooke Stoehr and the 2021-22 Lady Techsters hit Karl Malone Court.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said head coach Brooke Stoehr. “It’s always exciting to start official practice. Everyone has an extra bounce in their step and it’s something new from what they’ve done throughout the summer access and preseason workouts.”

The Lady Techsters return it’s top two scorers from a season ago, in Conference USA second teamer Keiunna Walker (16.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Anna Larr Roberson (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg). LA Tech brings back four ladies from last year’s squad and welcomes in nine newcomers, including four transfers: Gabbie Green, a Pittsburgh transfer; Salma Bates, Tulane transfer; Jadona Davis, South Alabama transfer; and Kate Thompson, Wisconsin transfer.

“I was pleased with the approach of our group today,” said Stoehr. “The energy and effort was there, and they were excited to be out on the court in a full practice together. This group has been very positive from day one, and it has been fun watching them compete and grow.”

Stoehr, in her sixth season with the Lady Techsters, will try to guide Tech back to a third postseason tournament since returning to Ruston in 2016. LA Tech finished the 2020-21 season with a 14-10 overall and 8-8 record in Conference USA play.

“We have several things to clean up as far as execution and game conditioning goes,” said Stoehr. “However, I was very pleased with the way the first practice went today. We have healthy competition at every position and it brings out the best in the group. I am excited to watch this group continue to grow together as the year progresses and they compete for a championship.”

The Lady Techsters opens regular season play on Nov. 9 as LA Tech battles Jarvis Christian College inside the Thomas Assembly Center at 6:30 p.m.

GSU adds King to athletics administration

Grambling State University Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics, Dr. Trayvean Scott, announced on Tuesday the addition of Karmen King as the Senior Associate AD for Compliance. 

King comes to Grambling from Southern University and A&M College where she served as the Associate AD for Student Services and Title IX. 

“We are excited to welcome Karmen to the Grambing State University family,” said Scott. “She has a strong history of success as an innovative leader in collegiate athletics, and she will immediately elevate our program with her comprehensive knowledge on NCAA matters and the student-athlete experience. At each stop of her career, she has been relentlessly committed to advancing the well-being and success of young men and women in the classroom, in the community and in competition.” 

King, who worked at Southern from 2015-2021, helped spearhead an unprecedented academic recovery of Southern Athletics as it relates to the Academic Progress Rate (APR).  

Prior to her position at Southern, King, who earned Honorable Mention at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association of on-site editorial writing, worked at Southeastern Louisiana University from 2014-2015 as Compliance and Title IX.  

A member of N4A and NAAC, King, who grew up around athletics as her father was a retired fastpitch softball and basketball coach, graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Middle East Studies.  

LPJ publishes engagement, wedding announcements

The Lincoln Parish Journal will start publishing paid engagement and wedding announcements for couples who reside in the parish, who have relatives in the parish or who are getting married in the parish. Students who are enrolled at Louisiana Tech or Grambling State but who do not live in the parish will also be able to submit. These announcements will be published each Friday morning. 

This move by the Journal allows couples to showcase their announcement on social media outlets. 

“This is a fabulous way for couples to have a traditional engagement and wedding announcement and reap the benefits of the digital age by posting it on social media,” said Judith Roberts, publisher of the Journal. “As the Journal continues to expand and increase its reach in the community, this will allow more people to see your happy announcement.”

Information for engagement announcements include: 

  • Digital photograph of the couple 

  • The couple’s names 

  • The couple’s hometowns 

  • High school and/or college of the couple 

  • Parents’ names and/or grandparents’ names 

  • Ties to the parish 

  • Wedding time, date, and place 

  • An interesting fact about the couple 

Information for the wedding announcements include: 

  • Digital photograph of the couple 

  • The couple’s names 

  • The couple’s hometowns 

  • High school and/or college of the couple 

  • Parents’ names and/or grandparents’ names 

  • Officiant  

  • Attendants 

  • Ties to the parish 

  • Wedding time, date, and place 

“We all love the happy news of an engagement and a wedding, and this is a great outlet for that positive information,” Roberts said. “I still have copies of my own engagement announcement and wedding announcement, and my husband Kyle and I will celebrate our 16-year anniversary Sept. 3. I’m so glad we’re able to offer this service to couples today.” 

For engagement and wedding announcement fees and/or to submit information for publication, please email lpjnewsla@gmail.com

Updates coming in downtown Ruston

Downtown Ruston is about to receive some upgrades. 

After the city council met for its monthly meeting, it allowed a section of property owned by Michael Echols of Monroe to be named an Economic Development District. This area, which goes from Ruston Farmers Market to Hazel Street, will be developed for condos, restaurants and several businesses. 

The area will be named the Power and Water District, as it is located where the former power and water buildings were housed. As the city council allowed it to be designated an Economic Development District, that will allow the owner, Echols, to ask for an EDD tax. In the Power and Water District’s case, the tax will be 1 ¾ percent. Echols as the developer, not the city, will receive the tax in order to assist in the development of the area. 

Rosy Bromell, Ruston Farmers Market board president, said all the new developments around the town would only enhance RFM. 

“New developments to the east of downtown help to drive traffic to our building,” Bromell said. “Not only the buildings in the P&W District, but also the new Skate Park. Our location is wonderful, but off the beaten path and not always known to the public. These new developments and other expansions to the east will be a great way to connect different areas of Ruston together and highlight the location of the RFM.” 

Bromell said the city plans to build a staircase from the back side of the Historic Fire Station parking lot to the RFM building to allow parking for the market once part of RFM’s parking is taken for the new development. Bromell said she thinks the staircase will guide more people to the market. 

“The RFM has benefited greatly from partnerships in our community,” Bromell said. “We rely on generous sponsors like Origin Bank and from those that provide in-kind services. We also have been able to connect growers with local restaurants like Grown and Grazed. We enjoy having community events in the market building. An example is Artoberfest. There are so many opportunities for the RFM to partner with others that we anticipate any new economic development will be beneficial. Mike Echols has shared his dream with the RFM Board and we are excited about what this will bring to Ruston and to Ruston Farmers Market.” 

Hometown Hero: Donnie Aultman

Donnie Aultman is pictured with wife Paula in 2018, when he served on the officiating crew at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl played in Atlanta between Michigan and Florida.

By T. Scott Boatright

Lincoln Parish has also produced some well known football officials over the years, including Bobby Aillet, who was a fixture on SEC gridirons and turned in a 36-year-career serving as a referee for 450 football games on both the high school and collegiate football levels. 

In 1966 Aillet, a Louisiana Tech University graduate and the son of former Bulldogs head coach and football stadium namesake Joe Aillet, became an SEC official until his retirement from the gridiron in 1986. He was the SEC’s chief of officials from 1978-82, and spent three years in press boxes serving as an observer of officials after leaving the playing field.

Aillet refereed 276 SEC games and eight bowls games, the biggest being Oklahoma’s Orange Bowl win over Penn State to win the national championship in 1985.

But Aillet, who passed away in March at the age of 93, wasn’t the last Tech tie to an NCAA championship officiating crew. 

In January, Tech grad Donnie Aultman, a Big 12 official who started his career as a referee in north Louisiana in 1995, served as one of the refs working the FBS national championship game between Alabama and Clemson.

“That was all so surreal,” Aultman said. “Last year was such a different year.” Aultman said. “We were having to be tested (because of COVID-19 protocols) during the week starting to Tuesday prior to each game, just hoping a game would be played that weekend. I was fortunate to work every week with no missed games.

“Then one day I got this email saying I was going to be working the national championship game. I had to reread that email twice making sure I wasn’t hallucinating.”

Aultman said he got his chance because the Big 12 was one of conferences to not have a team in the playoff field, and the NCAA makes sure the playoff referees are from “neutral” leagues with no representatives in the semifinals or title games.

“It was an incredible honor and experience,” Aultman said. “Months later it’s still hard to believe that really happened.”

Aultman was only 22 back in 1995 when he began his career as a referee.

“I was going into the business world but had always been involved in athletics,” Aultman said. “I started asking myself what I could do to stay involved in athletics somehow, because I knew I wasn’t going to coach. I probably would have gone into baseball because that’s what I really wanted to do, but my job just wouldn’t allow it, especially because there were so many day games back then. 

“It just so happened that I worked for CenturyLink — I still do — and they had an in-house newspaper that had an article about a local referee, Robin Chappellie, who worked at Tech and was friends with Roy Waters, who also worked at Tech and was a referee. I talked to them seeking something to stay involved in sports.

“That was the spring of 1995 and he took me out to the Ouachita (High School) spring game. That got my feet wet a little bit and from then on I just started working as many what we call sub-varsity games as I could. I worked my tail off and worked my way up to varsity.”

Aultman said that back then, the NCAA usually didn’t pick someone to be a referee until they were at least 30.

“So I got about eight or nine years of high school experience before I broke into the college ranks,” Aultman said. “I started with the Southland Conference in 2004. Once the Big 12 started working with other conferences a couple of years later, I was working Southland games and was being looked at by the Sun Belt. I worked the Sun Belt for the 2008 and ‘09 seasons while also working some Southland games. Then in 2010 I got on a Big 12 crew.”

Aultman, who is headed to Boise, Idaho, this weekend for the Broncos’ contest against Nevada, says his gameweek experience usually begins the Friday morning before each contest.

“We have to be there the night before the game,” Aultman said. “So this week, we’ll meet there in Boise as a group at 4 p.m. Friday. We’ll have a crew meeting for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half and discuss logistics and anything that’s happened over the past week that we need to discuss as a crew. Then we’ll eat dinner and just rest and watch whatever football game is on television Friday night.”

“On Saturday we have a 1:30 (p.m.) kickoff, so we’ll meet Saturday morning just to discuss anything else that may have come up overnight, and then we’ll have a crew devotion. We have to be at the stadium around three hours in advance of kickoff, so we’ll be at the stadium by 10:30 to 10:45 Saturday morning.

“We have some responsibilities when we get to the stadium. Each official has different things to take care of. Then at least 90 minutes before kickoff, a couple of us have to be on the field to start monitoring what’s going on out there. Then we all have to be on the field 60 minutes prior to kickoff.”

Aultman says after the game the crew has to go over foul reports.

“There’s an online system we log our fouls on, and provide any description we want to on what we saw and what happened,” he said. “Then you get back home the best and fastest you can on Sunday and that’s the weekend. If we can get back out or are driving me, we’re free to go after that foul report is submitted. But usually if we’re flying, that happens on Sunday.”

While Aultman didn’t meet Bobby Aillet Sr., he has talked and gotten advice from Bobby Aillet Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps as a longtime SEC referee who worked 13 postseason games himself, including three SEC Championships, two Rose Bowls and two Fiesta Bowls.

“When I first got into refereeing college games, I talked to Bobby Jr. quite a bit and he was a big help for my career,” Aultman said.

“This wasn’t something I exactly planned to do when I was growing up, but it’s something I love. It’s best when you’re not noticed, because that probably means nothing controversial has happened — the kind of thing that can be a headache for a game official. … It’s just something I love doing.”


Detention Center inmate dies

The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department announced an inmate housed at the parish detention center has died.

On Sept. 24 at approximately 12 p.m., inmate Demerious Jones was found unresponsive in his cell at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. Deputies and medical staff began rendering aid until Ruston Ambulance Service arrived. Jones was transported to Northern Louisiana Medical Center. Despite lifesaving measures, Jones passed away. 

An autopsy has been ordered to determine cause of death. Per policy, members of the North Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit responded to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center to investigate. 

Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Department announced it had teamed with sheriff’s offices in six other North Louisiana parishes to form the NLSIU to help conduct investigations involving the use of force that results in death or serious bodily injury, or incident like an inmate death.

In April, LPSO spokesman Matt Henderson told the Lincoln Parish Journal that the unit provided “a chance for these agencies to provide more transparency where you might have as many as six agencies coming in to investigate an incident that occurred at a parish sheriff’s office.”

Henderson said the sheriff’s office in the parish where an incident occurs will not be part of the North Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit studying that case. 

“Whatever agency is involved in the incident would not have a representative investigating the incident, hence allowing that third-party group to come in and put their eyes on the particular case,” Henderson said.

The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department operates the detention center.

The parishes included in the North Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit are Caldwell, Franklin, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland and Union.

NLSIU will release more information when further details become available.

Junior Auxiliary of Ruston welcomes new members

Junior Auxiliary of Ruston welcomed its incoming Provisional and Crown Club classes for the 2021-2022 year with a reception hosted by the Provisional Trainer and Crown Club Chair. The Provisional  group of 14 ladies have shown interest in JA of Ruston and will be trained for six months as well as attend chapter meetings and projects to determine if they wish to volunteer their time to their community through this organization for the next five years.

Crown Club of Ruston began in 2016 as a project to reach and mentor high school girls in responsibility, leadership and volunteering. This service year will be the largest class in Crown Club of Ruston’s existence. We welcomed seventeen new members to this service year. Much like JA, Crown Club has its own board, service and finance projects utilized to improve and support our community.  

Junior Auxiliary is a national non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that encourages members to render charitable services which are beneficial to the general public, with particular emphasis on children.

JA of Ruston was chartered by a group of caring and enthusiastic women in 1983; it continues to grow and thrive throughout Ruston and Lincoln Parish. Volunteers work tirelessly throughout the year on a variety of projects that focus on local children and families in need of assistance and hope.

JA of Ruston is a part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA), a non-profit organization founded in 1941 with headquarters in Greenville, MS. NAJA has more than 15,400 active, associate and life members in nearly 100 chapters across Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

The NAJA slogan is “Caring Hearts, Helping Hands, Changing Lives,” and when teamed with the current national focus of the association, “ The Power of Words” Junior Auxiliary Chapters are working more than ever before to increase awareness of child health and welfare and how it affects their futures.

For more information on Junior Auxiliary of Ruston visit www.jaofruston.org, for information on becoming a provisional, contact vp@jaofruston.org, Crown Club can be reached at crownclub@jaofruston.org, or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/juniorauxiliaryofruston. For more information on NAJA, visit www.najanet.org.

In the above photo, Provisional Members listed from left to right:

Front Row: Heather Terry , Kristy Barnette, Elizabeth Durbin
Back Row: Van Le, Jessica Williams, Lorrie Gates, Brittany Powell, Jordan Duran, Jessica Duncan, Donna Hardel, Briley Blazo.
Not Pictured: Madison Ditta, Chelsea Manning, Taylor Sloan

Additionally, the 2021-2022 Crown Club includes LaDiamond White, Catherine Cooper, Gabby Sterling, Hannah Reeder, Sadie Brown, Riley Patterson, Madeline Davis, Kate Pullin, Mary Laura Hunt, Kailee Barnette, Devika Dua, Leah Ashlak,  Murphy DeMoss, Amaree Sterling, Leah Sutherland, Preslea St. Andre, Rosemary Sewell, GiGi Daughtry, Lauryn Garrison, and Mariah White.

Harris earns state award

They call him Smoke for a reason.

Louisiana Tech sophomore wide receiver/punt returner Smoke Harris was named the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) Co-Special Teams Player of the Week Monday.

Harris registered a 67-yard punt return, the longest of his career, in LA Tech’s 24-17 conference-opening victory over North Texas. It was the longest punt return by a Bulldog since 2011 when Craig Johnson had an 82-yard punt return.

Harris, a native of St. Francisville, La., returned the punt to the North Texas two-yard line which allowed Tech to score a 21-yard field goal. He finished the game with three punt returns for 81 yards.

LA Tech steps out of conference for the last time, playing at No. 23 NC State on Saturday, Oct. 2. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT at Carter-Finley Stadium. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN+.

State park brings visitors through Lincoln

By Wesley Harris

If you see a RV with out-of-state license plates headed out the White Lightning Road, the odds are it is headed to Lake Claiborne State Park.

The park and the lake on which it sits are among the premier tourist destinations in northwest Louisiana.

The plan for a lake on Bayou D’arbonne in Claiborne Parish was first proposed in 1959. The state agreed to conduct a water resource survey and favorable findings led to a bill in the Louisiana Legislature to allocate funds for the project.

An earthen dam 5,500 feet long was constructed with one million cubic yards of dirt. The dam, which created a 6,400-acre lake with 40 miles of shoreline, was accepted as complete in August 1966. 

Initially, the state studied two plans for recreation facilities along the lake. The first called for three small parks, the other for a single large park. Thirty employees were estimated to be needed to operate the park.

The first funding for parks on the lake was obtained in December 1966. The details were still pending on the number of parks and whether they would be operated by the state or the local lake commission.

In 1966, state legislature voted to create a state park on a 92-acre tract with 3,000 feet of shoreline on the south side of the lake.

Movement on the park was slow, however, with bidding on the construction project delayed until 1972. The estimated cost of the initial phase of construction was scheduled to be approximately $300,000 to be financed by the state and a matching federal grant.

The planned park consisted of forty campsites with electric power and water. Other features in the park were to include a 40-unit picnic area, an open-air picnic shelter, restrooms, boat ramp and boathouse, fishing pier, underground utilities and a water well.

In January 1973 a contract was awarded to McInnis Brothers of Minden to construct the first phase of the park.

More than 200 people attended a dedication ceremony for the new Lake Claiborne State Park on May 12, 1974.

In 1984, a new campground was added, increasing the number of campsites for tents and RVs to 87. Over time the state added more tracts to the park to reach its current size of 643 acres. 

In addition to camping and fishing and boating, the state park offers hiking, playgrounds, and a popular sandy beach. Other activities have included cross country meets, family reunions, car shows, 4-H events, weddings, geocaching, fishing tournaments. Scout troops and orienteering groups have capitalized on the natural resources of the park for learning opportunities.

One of the most popular activities for visitors of all ages is swimming at the park’s sandy beach. The beach is situated on an inlet of the lake protected from boats and water skiers. Ecologists and sportsmen alike hail the lake’s excellent water quality.

In January 2000, ten cabins opened to the public after a $1.6 million construction project. Built as complete homes away from home, the cabins contain central air & heat, a wood-burning stove, sleeping arrangements for up to eight, a full kitchen and satellite TV. Basic cookware and bed linens are provided. The cabins have been updated and partially remodeled in recent years.

In addition to the cabins, visitors can rent an open-air pavilion or a large indoor meeting room for special events. The meeting facility has been used for weddings, family reunions, business meetings and birthday parties.

Lake Claiborne is known for being a premiere disc golf destination. Opened in 2014, its disc golf courses are rated as two of the best in America. Players come from all over to tackle the courses laid out on some of the most challenging disc golf terrain in the nation. Several large disc golf tournaments are scheduled each year.

The newest amenity added to the park is a “glamping” experience. Fully-equipped, safari-style canvas tents mounted on wood decks and containing a queen bed and propane heater provide a more luxurious experience than sleeping in a bag on the ground. Long awaited sewer hookups were also added to selected RV campsites this year.

Figures from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism reveal the 50- to 60,000 annual park visitors add significantly to the local economy. In 1998, the amount was estimated to be $1.7 million. By 2005, the number had fallen to just over $900,000 annually. 

Park use fees have risen to offset the reduction of state funds provided for maintenance and staff. In 1974, entrance into the park was $1 per carload and a campsite rented for $3.50 a night. Today, entry costs $3 per person and campsites range from $25 to $35 nightly. The new glamping campsites run $85 a night.

Park staff is less than a third of what it was at its peak and managers no longer live on site. Despite the financial struggles, the park is well maintained and offers a great getaway for locals and tourists alike.

Although the park is in Claiborne Parish, Ruston and Lincoln Parish benefit from the dollars spent by visitors shopping in local stores, eating in restaurants, and gassing up their RVs.

Reservations for any Louisiana state park can be made at lastateparks.com or by calling 1-877-226-7652.