Restoring Sunset Park
Sunset Park, where the Manchac Greenway and Lake Maurepas come together at the foot of the Pass Manchac Bridge was created at the prompting of the Lake Maurepas Society in the 1990s. It is St. John Parish's most remote, park and has been cared-for by the Laplace Lions Club. It got mauled by Hurricane Ida in 2021 which wrecked picnic shelters, heaped up piles of flotant marsh grass and further eroded the lakeshore. The Friends of the Manchac Greenway have been pressing for its rehabilitation, perhaps with the aid of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so it can go back to providing a pleasant place to pull off the road and fish, picnic, rest awhile and see the marvelous sunsets across Lake Maurepas.
Repurposing Port Manchac -
Image credit: Google Maps
Completing the Carter/Reagan Rest Area -
The Interstate-55 Manchac Exit was originally designed with a recreational campus on D.O.T. right-of-way spanning Jones Island. Among other things, there was to be a tennis court at Pass Manchac (its slab is still there), camp sites on the Borrow Canal, a big boat launch at North Pass on the other end (completed and heavily used) and a Rest Area at the Manchac Exit in-between. The Rest Area's concrete lanes, parking areas, curbing and a waste-water facility were installed during the Carter Administration but this infrastructure was abandoned and left unfinished during the Reagan Administration.
This concept drawing Lisa Williams, USPS-FMG, demonstrate's the Friends of the Manchac Greenway's advocacy that the public's prior investment be put to good use as a Greenway Trailhead with picnic shelters, walking trails, tree plantings and regular maintenance.
Realizing the Ring Around the Lake Bike Trail -
The Greater New Orleans Regional Planning Commission had a blueprint created for a "Pontchartrain Trace" bike path around Lake Pontchartrain in 1997. It would require something like the Manchac Greenway for this to happen. This thorough study remains a comprehensive guide for seeing this project through.
The State-owned Port Manchac on the Manchac Greenway at North Pass has never been much of a port. It's blocked by the railroad at the far western end of long, narrow North Pass and is far removed from other viable water destinations. This and the fact its situated in a delicate, environmentally damaged marsh and is susceptible to hurricane storm surge are serious enough drawbacks to leave one asking, "why here?"
Recently, the South Tangipahoa Parish Port Commission has been given the go-ahead by the State to examine alternative uses for this facility that may better serve the public's needs, and its purse.
The Friends of the Manchac Greenway are all for this, as it would help make this facility an even better neighbor, especially if they take up ecotourism and educational activities more in keeping with its surroundings, the public's sentiments and would dovetail with the Greenway's mission. This concept for recreation and education was researched and presented by Dana Brown and Associates on behalf of the Commission.
Completing Parish Master Plans for the Manchac Greenway -
The Friends of the Manchac Greenway was advised early-on to have a professionally prepared Master Plan prepared for our Greenway. By covering required design criteria for the project, it would have a tremendous leg-up when funding became available. With federal infrastructure funds beginning to materialize, the time is now. Fortunately, both Tangipahoa and St. John the Baptist Parishes have allocated a portion of the funds they received from the RESTORE Act arising from the New Horizon/BP oil spill disaster for Master Plans for their parts of the Manchac Greenway. These plans are in process and the parishes will work to coordinate them with the Greater New Orleans Regional Planning Commission for realizing the Greenway and the Ring Around the Lake Bike Trail.
Promoting the LA DOTD Adopt-A-Road Litter Program:
Shamefully, once US 51 between Laplace and Ponchatoula was no longer an official federal highway and was “replaced” by the parallel I-55 in the 1980s, it became an out-of-the-way dumping ground. Construction debris, yard waste, discarded furniture and other assorted refuse came out of both parishes on either end of the road as neither parish had very good trash disposal programs in place at the time.
Curiously, this problem was amplified by new environmental laws to help save the Earth’s ozone layer by placing strict, costly regulations on the disposal of refrigerant gasses. This caused a great portion of “white goods” to be illegally dumped on the "low road," replacing one environmental problem with another.
Dave Hargrave of the Lake Maurepas Society coordinated local and state government, corporations and citizen volunteers to collect an estimated 289 tons of trash in a two week period in 1990s. Parish law enforcement and the state highway department took up the challenge of increased surveillance, enforcement and maintenance and the old road has stayed in pretty good shape since.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development's (LA DOTD) Adopt-A-Road Program on the Manchac Greenway continues this effort by providing an excellent vehicle for citizen involvement in keeping the Greenway clear of litter and other hazards. The Friends of the Manchac Greenway (FMG) has adopted the northern-most mile of the Greenway, plus we do a sweep of the parking lot of the Joyce WMA Swamp Walk Boardwalk for good measure. Furthermore, FMG has recruited several other organizations to adopt their miles on the Greenway. There are plenty more unadopted miles in need of attention.
All enrollees are obliged to make a quarterly litter pick-up on both sides of their adopted mile. In return, they get two bright blue Adopt-A-Road signs posted at either end of their mile to declare their group's participation. Additionally, LA DOTD will provide plenty of orange litter bags, safety vests, and even warning signs, and will pickup your collection of filled bags and miscellaneous trash brought to the side of the road. Furthermore, the LA DOTD can be alerted if exceptionally egregious dumping is found on the Greenway,.
Lagniappe for Adopt-A-Road participants: Litter is also picked-up on the Greenway by LA DOTD's mowing contractor and the Tangipahoa and St. John Parish Sheriff Departments occasionally send out litter crews to the Greenway.
On top of all this is the opportunity to do something good for the community and increase the Manchac Greenway's viability as a public asset.
If your organization wants to get in on the fun, you can adopt your own mile of the Manchac Greenway by contacting the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development at: http://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Operations/adopt-a-road/Pages/default.aspx or call Natalie Hebert, LA DOTD - (985) 375-0190, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Taylor, FMG Tangipahoa – (985) 974-1810, email@example.com
Greg “Za” Maurin, FMG St. John – (985) 703-0917, firstname.lastname@example.org
You'll get an information packet from the LA DOTD, a representative of your organization will have to view a safety orientation video, you pick out a mile and then you'll be in business.