La. playground showcases first responder vehicles
"Kids can climb into the front seats and pretend to drive the police car or climb up into the cab of the fire truck and play around in a safe learning environment," an official said
By Dan Copp
The Houma Courier
THIBODAUX, La. — A new attraction at the Bayou Country Children's Museum in Thibodaux is allowing kids to explore the inside of a real police car and fire truck.
The Outdoor First Responder's Playground and Exhibit, which celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 2, features a fire truck donated by the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department and a patrol car donated by the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office.
"Kids can climb into the front seats and pretend to drive the police car or climb up into the cab of the fire truck and play around in a safe learning environment," said Chris Gergeni, the museum's executive director.
The attraction also includes a high-end playground and first-responder equipment for children to play with, Gergeni said.
"Kids can walk from across a bridge into the playground to the back of the fire truck," he said. "Eventually we'll have electricity running through a conduit outside so we can have the lights work and a quiet siren."
The playground project was a collaborative effort that brought multiple agencies and organizations together, Gergeni said. The museum at 211 Rue Betancourt will gain a third first-responder vehicle next year after Acadian Ambulance agreed to donate one of its ambulances.
"We are extremely grateful to have so many partners working together from multiple parishes for the children of the bayou region," he said.
Because first-responder vehicles can rival the Batmobile in terms of the number of gadgets they have, child-proofing them was no easy feat, Gergeni said.
"Most people have no conception what it takes to make a fire truck safe for kids to play on," he said. "There are a lot of holes you have to plug and fill."
The playground doesn't represent Lafourche Sheriff Craig Webre's first partnership with the children's museum. He also worked with the museum to launch the Safetyville exhibit in 2012 to teach children what to do during fires and other disasters and said he was enthusiastic to donate a patrol car.
"You have a captive audience of young children who are there with a zest to learn and a curiosity to acquire knowledge," Webre said. "When we had the chance to partner with the fire department and Acadian Ambulance to branch out and expand the display, we were eager to jump on that opportunity."
The playground takes some of the mystery out of how first-responder vehicles operate, Webre said.
"When they normally see police cars they see them patrolling, parked outside of a building, maybe with someone in custody inside of them or on TV," the sheriff said. "It's an alien kind of a vessel with all these bells and whistles and lights. This gives them a real opportunity to go into the car or fire truck and get a more hands-on appreciation. I think it takes away the mystique and apprehension that some children may have otherwise."