Run, Ride, Watch, Enjoy on Louisiana's Swamp Road
MANCHAC GREENWAY PROGRESS REPORT - 05/16/18
It’s a good time to take stock of our project, celebrate its successes, recognize its shortcomings and take aim at its achievable goals. All in all, not bad work for a bunch of (mostly) volunteers doing working part-time on a shoe-string budget.
- Improved fishing and picnicking areas.
- Canoe and boat launches.
- Improved scenic viewing.
- Friends of the Manchac Greenway membership, activities, projects and outreach.
- Improvements for biking, walking, running, fishing, boating, etc. and promotion of these activities.
- Education displays, eco-tourism and sightseeing.
- Protection of the ecology and integrity of the Isthmus of Manchac
(The discovery phase; getting ready to get ready.)
March 11 – The first formal meeting of the Manchac Greenway Steering Committee was held at the Turtle Cove office in Galva and included Frank Neelis, Rob Moreau, Director of SLU’s Turtle Cove Research Station, Za Maurin, Tangipahoa Parish Councilman Bobby Cortez, Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller, Joseph Lamonte, Permit Officer of the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development, Ben Taylor, Lawrence Mauerman of the South Tangipahoa Environmental Advisory Council, Deirdre Hewitt and Stacey Palmer of the National Park Service, Melida Holloway, Dwight Williams, Executive Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Randy Meyers of the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries, Alyson Lapuma, Director of Planning for Tangipahoa Parish, Randy Herndon of the Conservation Fund, Lawrence Mauerman of the South Tangipahoa Environmental Advisory Council, the Rev. Donald August and Herb Holloway of SLU’s Small Business Development Center.
March, April, and July – New steering committee members were added, relevant entities, resources and tasks identified and sub-committees established.
September – The first friend/fund raising event was held at Frenier Landing in commemoration of the centenary of the West Indian Hurricane of 1915.
A website and social media presence were established; further additions and refinements were made to the board, bylaws and committees; officially posted Greenway/bikeway signs were sought and provided; a joint parish Greenway Commission was planned and requested; a share of pending BP Restoration Funds was sought; a vegetation survey along the Greenway was planned and additional grant funding for a Greenway Manager and a Master Plan were sought. The original citizen’s steering committee for the Greenway was replaced by the state-incorporated and IRS tax exempt Friends of the Manchac Greenway (FMG). The Ponchatoula Times published a series on history, science and legend on the Greenway.
The establishment of a bi-parish Manchac Greenway Commission as a governmental body to receive governmental funds was accomplished. A Manchac Greenway logo, tri-fold membership brochure, bumper sticker and event display materials were produced for the Friends by Duotribe; special event networking included the dedication of the newly refurbished North Pass Boat Launch; a FEMA Louisiana Safe public meeting; the Middendorf's Manchac Fun Run / Walk; a DOT/LADOTD Complete Streets seminar; the Turtle Cove annual fundraiser on Pass Manchac; the Land Trust of Louisiana fundraiser; a Louisiana Dept. Culture Recreation and Tourism Scenic Byways meeting (appraising Lt. Governor Nungesser of our project) and a presentation before the Dept. of Biology Environmental Management Class at SLU. The Hammond Daily Star published a sizable article about the Greenway project. Insane rainfall in the Lake Maurepas basin resulted in heretofore-unknown levels of flooding and a comprehensive hydrologic study of this part of the state was promised by the LADOTD. The organization’s board was further refined with the addition of an Advisory Board. A Trails Grant was allocated for resurfacing and striping the shoulder of the Greenway in Tangipahoa Parish. An alliance with the Manchac Boating Assoc., Save Manchac and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation was effective in the reorientation of Port Manchac. Frank and Ben met with New Orleans Regional Planning Commission officials to find much commonality in goals and support. Educational displays about local flora, fauna and history were installed at Middendorf’s, Turtle Cove Research Station and the Joyce WMA Swampwalk.
The Environmental Management class at SLU presented their real-world, group project of an “Eco-tourism Proposal for the Manchac Greenway.” A $71,000 BP Restoration Fund grant was dedicated for a detailed Master Plan for the Greenway and a SLU Tourism study (based on the previously mentioned study). St. John the Baptist Parish repaired the Ruddock boat launch. The FMG organization adopted a Mission Statement: “The Friends of the Manchac Greenway was founded to protect and preserve the Manchac Greenway as a natural and recreational resource through advocacy, conservation and education.” Planning was commenced for a Spring Roll cycling event that resulted in the wisdom to hold off for a year to do more planning to get the best results. The Clean Sweep and Keep America Beautiful trash clean-ups were planned and executed on two dates with the assistance of Entergy, parish governments and other groups. Frank presented plaques of appreciation to these groups. FMG attended a public meeting on the continuing preparations for a Mississippi River Diversion into Hope Canal and the Blind River to preserve the upper basin’s ecology. BP Restoration Funds were used for more rock armoring on the Lake Pontchartrain shore of the Isthmus of Manchac. The continuing tree planting program in the eastern Jones Island area by LPBF, LAWF, CRCL and others are helping to re-establish the area’s original ecology in view of the continuing freshening of the lake system since the closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. FMG continues to develop goodwill and support with businesses on the Greenway. Contact with the Canadian National Railroad indicated their possible assistance with “The Squeeze” between the railroad and DOT rights-of-way at the north end of the Greenway. The LADOTD committed to contract for on-going litter cleanup on the Greenway. An extensive SLU Television interview with Frank Neelis was recorded at the Joyce WMA Swampwalk. A Ring Around the Lake Economic Impact Study, of which the Greenway would be an integral part, was completed and presented by the SLU Small Business Development Center tor FMG. LADOTD continues its program of regular maintenance and support for the Greenway. Tangipahoa Parish Government adopted the incomplete Carter/Reagan I-55 interstate rest area for future development. FMG receives continued political support from Ponchatoula, Hammond, St. John and Tangipahoa Parishes. FMG stood a tent & table at the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
- A landscaping and vegetation management program featuring native vegetation.
- Selection of consultants for the BP Restoration Grant Funds dedicated to a detailed Master Plan and SLU Tourism study of the Greenway.
- Finding a Ring Around the Lake Godfather.
- Support from Tangipahoa and St. John the Baptist Tourism.
- A complete FMG membership program.
- An Upper Lake Pontchartrain Basin comprehensive hydrologic study by LADOTD.
- Advocacy for the study of a Mississippi River diversion from Bonnet Carre River Control Structure into the Isthmus of Manchac via the I-55 borrow canal.
- A complete FMG web site and social media chatter/presence.
- Improvements to boat and canoe launches that lead to the scenic sloughs, lakes, canals, bayous and ditches in the surrounding wetlands.
- The creation of more “mini-parks” at the roadway’s drainage with a litter management program.
- The creation of a secure, outdoor interpretive area describing human and natural history on the Greenway.
- Landscaping of the dredge spoil area between the interstate and the Greenway for recreational purposes.
- Construction of a handicap accessible fishing pier on Pass Manchac, North Pass or the I-55 borrow canal.
- Resurfacing and striping the road shoulder on the Greenway for bicycling. The Trails Grant to do some of this in Tangipahoa is on hold awaiting completion of the greenway Master Plan.
- The publication of handouts and the creation of a smartphone application to provide detailed information on Greenway features, waypoints, history and ecology.
Attacks in the state legislature against Scenic Waterway protections and the removal of the Amite/Comite Rivers from this program before a comprehensive LADOTD hydrologic study of the Lake Maurepas basin is completed.
The Friends of the Manchac Greenway is fortunate to have an active, engaged board with good attendance at events to promoting the Greenway and in pursuing worthwhile projects.
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