One new sidewalk not a good idea, grandmother says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 6, 2000

LAPLACE – One parent whose child goes to LaPlace Elementary School calls it “the sidewalk to nowhere.” A grandparent who almost lost her grandchild inthe canal alongside the sidewalk calls it “the sidewalk to tragedy.”Duaine Duffy wants people to call the 300-foot slab of concrete a “walking path or a bike path,” and he thinks it is a great idea for LaPlace.

What these three people are talking about is a stretch of sidewalk that runs from Greenwood Drive in the Carrollwood Subdivision in the direction of Fairway Drive. On one side of the sidewalk is LaPlace Elementary School, andon the other is a drainage canal that is overgrown with weeds and has about a foot of water in it.

The canal is why some people are not happy about where the sidewalk is located.

At a recent parish council meeting Melissa Faucheux brought up the issue that the sidewalk will pose a safety hazard to the children of the school and the neighborhood.

“I’m afraid that children will use the sidewalk and fall into the canal,” said Faucheux. “This is a liability issue with the parish.”Bertram Madere, director of Civil Service, told the council, “We didn’t find any safety issues with the sidewalk. It doesn’t force people to come to thecanal. And kids should be supervised on routes to and from school.”This explanation didn’t satisfy one resident of the area who had a grandson fall into the canal before the sidewalk was even built.

Linda Faulk, said her 9-year-old grandson was playing by the canal last summer and fell in. Fortunately, he was able to get out, but for Faulk theincident proves that kids will play by the canal, and the sidewalk only makes it more alluring.

“I see children play out there all the time,” said Faulk. “Kids are kids, and theywill wander off. This thing is an enticement to children.”Steve Lee, who represents the district that the sidewalk is in, said the sidewalk is a good thing for the area.

“It is a bike path and a walk path, ” said Lee. “We saw this as a positive thing.I thought it was responsible on my part.”The sidewalk came about after a federal grant made it possible to build a small park on the opposite side of Greenwood Drive. There was some moneyleft over from the $10,000 grant, and Lee and Duaine Duffy decided to use it to build the sidewalk.

“We saw it as a way to use our servitudes,” said Duffy. “In Jefferson Parish,they did the same thing with Power Boulevard median. We see this as a wayfor people to bike and walk to Greenwood Park.”At the present time that will be bit difficult. The sidewalk ends about 300feet from where it starts on Greenwood Drive.

Duffy said that for right now the sidewalk is a demonstration project.

“We’d like to extend it from Fairway Drive to the other side of the park, past St. Charles Catholic High to Dominican Drive,” said Duffy. “I see this as apositive project in the long run.”Faulk is not convinced.

“Where are the funds going to come to finish the sidewalk?” she asked.

Duffy said there are several grants the parish can apply for, including the Rural Development Grant. He said Gov. Foster has a state grant specificallyfor walkways and bike paths.

“Who knows? We may even have some money left over in the public works budget at the end of the year to finish the project,” Duffy said optimistically.

Lee was apologetic about not telling the council or the St. John Parish SchoolBoard about the project, but he defended his actions by saying, “(Nickie) Monica, Duffy and I discussed this with (Errol) Manuel (recreation department director). It was a prudent move to turn something into a park.”Duffy added, “We suffer from former police juries not setting aside enough green spaces. Now we have limited space and using the servitudes is on wayof getting more green space for the residents.”Lester Rainey was critical on how the project was constructed.

“I think that they should have told the council they were doing this,” said Rainey.

Faucheux said, “I’m not against the idea. I just know what children will do whennot supervised.”Duffy assured her that Sheriff Wayne Jones would keep an eye on the area and maybe even light the area.

Faulk said, “I’m sure the sheriff is doing a good job, but his men cannot police this area 24/7. I’m concerned for my grandchildren.”Faulk said if the sidewalk is to remain, then the parish should make the area safer for the children.

“If they want to make things beneficial, then fence it in,” said Faulk.

Duffy was hesitant about that idea.

“I don’t know about a fence, ” he said. “Maybe something more like a railing.”But Faulk is scared that once that canal fills with water after a rain storm, some kid is going to end up drowning.

“Does something tragic have to happen before action is taken?” Faulk asked.

“They need to fence off the canal from Fairway to Greenwood.”But Duffy doesn’t think such drastic measures are necessary.

“Kids use that area now,” he said. “And I think it is safer for them to be awayfrom the streets.”He said that on Power Boulevard in Jefferson Parish the walking path is between two very busy streets and the children are safe.

But Faulk and other parents are still worried that the sidewalk will be an enticement for children to go near the canal.

One parent, who wished not to be identified, was upset when the sidewalk was finished.

“My 10-year-old son came to me and said, ‘they took all the boards down; now we can go play out there.’ I was not very happy with that,” the mother said.

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