Off Road Biking
An adjunct to the Manchac Greenway's smooth, long-distance bike path could be a sideshow for adventurous off-road bikers who want a taste of an even more challenging and arduous version of the sport - a parallel "mountain bike trail" threading through the trees between old US 51 and the I-55 Borrow Canal.
This 100-200 ft. x 26 mi. long strip of ground is made of the dredged "spoils" from digging the canal. Originally heaped with naked hummocks of dirt, it has slowly become populated with a linear forest of native non-swamp trees growing from the drained soil. Trees like Hackberry, Elm, Oak, Swamp Maple and Black Willow and, of course, the invasive Chinese Tallow are the exact species found in coastal Louisiana's many chenier's and relic Mississippi River distributaries and their roots help fortify the narrow isthmus.
The strip's topography has smoothed-out somewhat over the years but there are still moguls, humps and spaces for modifications that would lend themselves to styles of off-road cycling like trail riding, hucking, dirt jumping as well as plenty of trees to work around and for park spaces along the way. Resources like the International Mountain Biking Association stand at the ready to help develop this asset for this segment of the cycling public.
Images courtesy Wikipedia.
Cross-section of the Manchac Greenway - pictured left to right: native swamp forest, the I-55 Canal, I-55 southbound and northbound, the spoil bank forest, old US 51, old Hammond Hwy. and native swamp forest. (Image courtesy Google.)
While not as preferable as an isolated, dedicated bike trail, completely removed from car traffic, an alternative for the Greenway's bicycle path would be an arrangement like this - a wide road shoulder with a striped bike lane and a vibration strip which makes an audible warning if a vehicle has veered from its travel lane. Also pictured is a solar-powered warning light that could be used at bridges on the Greenway to warn motorists that pedestrians/cyclists are ahead.
Minor enhancements and improvements that can be economically done to current Greenway assets:
- Improvements (brush clearing, docks, picnic tables and parking) to fishing areas, boat and canoe launches.
- The management of invasive aquatic plants, selective removal of roadside scrub vegetation, restoration of native vegetation and vegetation management to improve scenic views.
- The use of striping, signage and lighting to improve safety for bicycling.
- The creation of a smartphone application to provide detailed information on Greenway features, waypoints, history and ecology.
- Marketing to tourism and various user groups to increase visitation and use of the Greenway.
- Improvements for biking, walking, running, fishing, canoeing, boating, eco-tourism and sightseeing and promotion of these activities.
- A detailed Master Plan for the Greenway and a Greenway Manager.
Major new investments:
- Create a Manchac Greenway Trailhead at the abandoned Carter/Reagan Interstate Rest Area at the Manchac exit and/or at Port Manchac.
- The completion of a dedicated bike path along the Greenway and a major component to the Ring Around the Lake Bike Trail by resurfacing old segments of the old Hammond Highway and/or widening of the U.S. 51 shoulder and construction/reconstruction of bridges.
- Constructing a causeway for the last mile between the Greenway at Selsers Canal and the southern entrance to Ponchatoula.
- The addition of a bike trail linking the Mississippi River levee bike path with the Greenway and a maintenance road/bike path atop the new West Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Levee to St. James Parish.
- A comprehensive landscaping and vegetation management program to restore native vegetation and improve scenic views along the entire Greenway.
- Improved or new picnicking and fishing areas, including a handicap accessible fishing pier, foot trails, bike paths, canoe and boat launches, scenic views, access to education/information to promote biking, walking, running, fishing, boating, eco-tourism and sightseeing on the Greenway.
- Landscaping of the dredge spoil area between the interstate and the Greenway for recreational purposes.
- Further protection of the ecology and integrity of the Isthmus of Manchac.
Compromise "Share the Road" Bike Trail
A Manchac Greenway Wish List:
The long-abandoned 1920s New Orleans - Hammond Highway would be an ideal bicycle/pedestrian path for the Manchac Greenway. Its road surface in St. John Parish is completely separate from motor vehicle traffic and it is in reasonable shape. Unfortunately, most of the 1920s-era wooden bridges across the road's many drainage channels are in need of repair or replacement. Until new bridges can be installed, a temporary measure could the use of "round abouts" to guide users to the neighboring highway shoulder and then back to the old roadway.
Rebuilt/Replacement Bridges on the old Hammond Highway