St. John launch expanding

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 8, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – St. John Parish officials are preparing to move on an ambitious recreational endeavor that targets the parish’s access to Lake Pontchartrain.

After a meeting with the Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies, Parish President Bill Hubbard discussed his plans to revamp and improve the boat launch area at the end of Peavine Road by expanding the periphery of the land jutting out into the lake and adding a marina facility where residents could dock their boats.

“I think the area is underutilized, and there is an opportunity to capitalize on it,” said Hubbard. “I think it is something we can market as a tourist spot as well.”

St. John Public information officer Buddy Boe said the project, which Hubbard is calling “Frenier Marina” in reference to the community that once populated that region, would bring the boat launch out into deeper water in the lake as well as add more green space for residents to utilize. He said the parish would also create a new parking lot, install a lighthouse and incorporate a marina area into the location.

“We’re talking about adding 60 boat slips that could be rented out on a regular basis,” said Boe. “Any revenue we collect would go right back into the marina area to help the parish pay for maintenance and upkeep.”

Boe said the parish has scheduled a closed town hall meeting with residents in the area who would be immediately affected by the marina plans. That meeting is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Highway 51 branch of the St. John Library.

“We want to hear those residents’ comments and concerns first and foremost,” said Boe. “Once we get their input, future town hall meetings involving the whole parish will be scheduled.”

Carlton Dufrechou, executive director for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin foundation, said he had spoken with Hubbard early last week and expressed his support for the proposal.

“We always like to see more positive access to the lake for the people,” said Dufrechou. “I think the more people you can get out to use the lake, the more awareness of preservation can spread.”

Dufrechou said for the project to move forward, the parish must take steps to limit the effect on the various lake habitats in that area.

“The key is limiting the footprint of what needs to be done in the lake for this project,” said Dufrechou. “The smaller the footprint the better because less of the lake gets disturbed.”

Boe said once the town hall meeting takes place, the parish has plans to conduct biological surveys in that portion of the lake to see what is out there. He said the parish is taking every step to ensure that those fragile aquatic environments remain uncontaminated.

Although the wheels of the project have slowly been put into motion, Hubbard said nothing has been finalized. He said once the town hall meetings with the residents take place, the parish will submit a formal application request to the Department of Natural Resources. He did say, however, that the project has the endorsement of various state legislators.

“I see nothing but positives from this,” said Hubbard. “People talk of the west end of the lake in New Orleans, but we are the real west end here in St. John Parish.”