By ROBIN SHANNON
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Smooth rides and walks are ahead for St. John the Baptist Parish east bank residents who frequent the Mississippi River levee for outdoor exercise activities as parish officials cut the ribbon on phase one of a paved multi-use trail in LaPlace.
Less than two months after starting construction, the 2.5-mile paved path is now officially open for use.
The trail extends from the parish line at Lewis Street to the Walnut Street area near Emily C. Watkins Elementary School.
“This was honestly one of the smoothest projects we have been able to do,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “Once we were ready for construction, progress moved very quickly with few hang-ups.”
The 2.5-mile section is the first phase of what is currently a three-phase trail project through the parish. Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said the second phase, which is expected to be ready to go out for bid this month, will stretch 2.84 miles from Walnut Street to Our Lady of Grace Church in Reserve.
Braud said the parish anticipates that the second phase will be under way by the end of the year. The proposed third phase would extend the path to Central Avenue in Reserve.
Barriere Construction was awarded the roughly $411,000 contract for construction earlier this year. The project was funded through the state Department of Transportation and Development’s Recreational Trails Program, and the parish is only responsible for about $20,000, or 5 percent, of the total cost of construction, Braud said. Phase two is currently budgeted at about $900,000.
The St. John portion will eventually link up with an existing 23-mile levee path in St. Charles Parish that extends downriver from New Sarpy to Audubon Park in New Orleans.
Robottom said the parish is working on signage for the path, as well as parking and landings for entering and exiting the trail from the ground level. She said the second phase will include a ramp, but there is also talk of adding one at some point in the first phase of the project.
“This project has been in the works for quite some time, and we wanted to get moving on the trail,” Robottom said. “This is a good opportunity to attract the many walkers and cyclists who often use the crown of the levee.”
The multi use trail will eventually be part of a state proposed 110-mile levee path running continuously from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
A consulting group recently completed a feasibility study to get surrounding parishes involved in the project.