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New guidelines regulating recreational use of spillway

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 18, 1998

NORCO – The Bonnet Carre Spillway, once a wide-open recreational area for everything from radio-controlled airplanes and skeet-shooting to overnight camping and ATV-driving, is coming under tighter control.

Park Ranger Debra Stokes, employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,is already implementing certain measures to ease the public into greater compliance with new laws and guidelines to regulate the recreational use of this federally-owned land.

“There are so many uses for the spillway and some uses are not compatible with others,” she said.

A new master plan for recreational development is in final draft form and will be released soon, she said Monday. “The main purpose of the spillwayis flood control,” she emphasized. “We just want to get the word out -that there’s no surprises.”Public meetings have been held, at which groups including bikers, cyclists, fishermen and shooting enthusiasts gathered to provide the Corps with their own ideas.

High on everyone’s list was to permit whatever could be safely permitted without infringing on anyone else’s activities.

For example, Stokes said, there is a designated area for overnight camping, for which a parish permit is required from the Recreation Department. The permits are free and can be applied for in advance byphone and mailed to the applicant.

“We also want to really hit home on the dumping,” she continued. “This isnot a dump.”So far she has issued a host of citations against illegal dumping in the area, and there’s an arrest warrant out for a New Orleans man for continued violations.

Firearms use is another concern. Only shotguns will be permitted and nohandguns, rifles or black-powder firearms are allowed. There aredesignated areas for active hunting during specific seasons, and no target shooting or skeet shooting is allowed to ensure the safety of other spillway users, Stokes said, “because of the potential of someone being hurt.” Bowhunting is also banned.”I’ve been giving warnings,” she added, “but I am here to educate.”All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, and motorcycles will be restricted to one specific area south of Airline Highway, at least until a planned trail north of Airline is completed. This will keep them away from hunters, campersand boaters.

The Corps hopes to work with a sponsor, such as an organization or business, who will work with the agency to build and maintain the trails and eventually take over operation of those trails.

“A local ATV club has organized and is working with us,” Stokes explained.

“This is the beginning of our big education push,” she concluded, “so people can enjoy the public land safely.”

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