MLK road tribute stalled

Published 8:50 am Saturday, March 28, 2015

RESERVE — Louisiana 3179 in Reserve will eventually be known as Martin Luther King Jr. Highway.

However, the lack of signage and presence of overgrown grass and unkempt structures along the roadway frustrate local leaders and delay an official ceremony.

St. John the Baptist Parish Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. requested this week efforts be made to properly board up an abandoned house in the 200 block.

“I have a problem with just taking a piece of plywood or a half of a sheet of plywood and just sticking it up there,” Madere said. “I know that we have a time factor, but let’s make sure we board that building up properly.

“My whole thing is that I want this area to look as good as it possibly can for the ceremony.”

State Rep. Randal Gaines (D-LaPlace) said the official name dedication ceremony waits on the clean-up efforts and a sign that will come from The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Gaines said he requested the state agency provide maintenance on Louisiana 3179, adding the grass needs to be cut and trash removed.

Those requests were made last week.

“The official ceremony date will be determined by getting the highway cleaned up and the sign,” Gains said.

The former East 22nd Street in Reserve, which extends from Airline Highway to River Road, went through state legislation in order to obtain the name change.

Gaines drafted and filed a bill with the state legislature, which was supported by a resolution from the St. John Parish Council.

The bill was unanimously passed June 1 and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal June 23.

“We believed this to be a wonderful idea,” Madere said. “It is a name that brings more pride to that street.”

The change request was first tabled at the state level, Gaines said, because the original proposal requested the road be named Martin Luther King Boulevard. Since it is a state highway, it could not be named a boulevard, Gaines said.

Madere, who represents district three where the road is located, believes King’s name carries historical meaning.

“I have the same philosophy (as King),” Madere said. “We are the same. In District 3, I represent all. I am an individual that cares about all. This is an honor to change the name, because we do not have any buildings in this area that are named after Martin Luther King.”

Gaines said the renaming is an ideal way to honor the life, struggles and sacrifices of King.

“He not only advocated and fought to make his dream of racial harmony and equality a reality, he sacrificed his life, the ultimate sacrifice, for this noble cause,” Gaines said. “Naming the road in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. will serve as a reminder of the great sacrifices that were made to ensure and preserve the constitutional mandates of life, liberty and equal protection of the laws for all citizens.

“These are the principals on which this country was built, and the adherence to these enduring principals will enable us to reach our full potential as a community and as a nation.”

— By Gladys Davis Mulkey