Parks and quays take shape as Bayou Lafourche, cleaner and more fluid, undergoes a revival | Environment

Years of work and millions of dollars have gone into restoring the Bayou Lafourche. Now is the time to show it.

Half a dozen park projects are planned or underway along the once blocked and stagnant bayou stretching from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico to Port Fourchon. New docks, boat launches, trails and other amenities will hopefully turn increasing numbers of visitors to the bayou into better stewards of the waterway, said Ryan Perque, executive director of Friends of Bayou Lafourche, a non-profit group that campaigns for the restoration of the bayou.

“People viewed the bayou as a drainage ditch,” he said. “But over the past two years, they have recognized that this is viable recreational equipment [and] it is a source of water for over 300,000 people. They recognize that they have to keep it clean.

Behind the Acadian Cultural Center of Wetlands at Parc historique national Jean Lafitte in Thibodaux, school groups are heading to Bayou Lafourche on May 25, 2021. The National Parks Service has joined forces with the Friends of Bayou Lafourche to help people reuse the waterway for recreation.

Last month, the Friends group completed the first phase of upgrading the new Nicholls Bayou-Side Park, alongside Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The narrow, nearly 8-acre property now has paved parking, outdoor shelter and, for the first time, easy bayou access via a floating dock and boat launch. for kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized boats. The Friends group covered the $ 305,000 in design and construction costs and donated the finished equipment to Nicholls State.

“Although the bayou has always been in front of the university, it has been very difficult to access,” said Nicholls president Jay Clune. “What the Friends of Bayou Lafourche have done is give our community a way to connect more deeply with our environment and our culture. I couldn’t be more grateful for the work they did. “

In later phases of the Nicholls Park project, the Friends group plans to build a boathouse, amphitheater, walking trails and other facilities for university and public use. The project, which will likely cost $ 8 million, could also include features that slow down traffic and improve pedestrian safety along the road that connects the Nicholls campus to the bayou. The group of friends are raising funds for the next phases and do not yet know when they will be completed.

Bayou Lafourche

The group plans to carry out at least three other park projects this year:

  • Disabled Accessible Floating Boardwalk and Dock in Napoleonville Across Louisiana 308 from Assumption High School
  • A floating dock with bays for small motor boats in downtown Thibodaux
  • A floating dock near the Cajun Bayou Visitor Center on Louisiana 1 between Raceland and Matthews.

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A launching ramp between Thibodaux and Raceland as well as a floating dock and a parking area are also being developed on the sand part of the historic ED White site near Labadieville.

The park improvements come in the latest stretch of a $ 180 million effort to reconnect the Mississippi River to the bayou. Over a century ago, Lafourche was cut off from the river, its main source of fresh water, triggering a series of environmental problems, including the loss of wetlands south of Houma and New Orleans.

Lafourche pumping station

A three-dimensional render shows a pumping station that the Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District wants to build in Donaldsonville on the Mississippi River. The district wants to increase the flow of fresh water from the river to the bayou.

A long-delayed pumping station in Donaldsonville, considered the backbone of the ongoing project for decades, was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in November. The station will triple the flow of the Mississippi into the bayou and help flush the invading salt water that is responsible for wetland loss and water quality issues in southern Lafourche Parish.

the Bayou Lafourche freshwater district, who is leading the project, also recently removed a small dam, known as the Weir, which for decades had blocked boats at Thibodaux, essentially cutting the bayou in two. The removal of the dam allows boaters to travel the 106 miles of the bayou.

“The removal of the spillway was an important step that opened the bayou to boat traffic,” said Perque. “Introduce the Bayou-Side Park and others [parks] it’s good timing. “

This is the first of two articles on Bayou Lafourche and plans to use it to rebuild parts of the Louisiana coast. Read part 2 here.

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This work is supported by a grant funded by the Walton Family Foundation and administered by the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Tristan Baurick: [email protected]; on Twitter: @tristanbaurick.

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