‘Friends’ improving LaPlace-to-Ponchatoula stretch

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Where once stood the Manchac Greenway Committee, now stands Friends of the Manchac Greenway.

Made up of residents from St. John the Baptist and Tangipahoa Parishes, the Committee recently celebrated its formal non-profit status (IRS 501c3) to become the Friends of the Manchac Greenway.

“These are exciting times in the development of the Manchac Greenway,” Co-organizer Ben Taylor said.

“Our discovery phase has yielded much knowledge about what it will take to pursue the project as we enjoy seeing involvement from the community and significant elements begin to fall into place.”

A formal Board has been formed and is expanding, Taylor said, adding committees are coming together to help with membership, update manchacgreenway.org, formalize a logo, develop outreach materials and raise money for Greenway projects.

The creation of the Manchac Greenway along the former U.S. 51 through the swamps and marshes between LaPlace and Ponchatoula is a resident-led effort with the assistance of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, area governments, faculty members and students from Southeastern Louisiana University and businesses.

The project gained steam early in 2016 when local leaders celebrated the installation of signs marking the old stretch of U.S. 51 as an official bike path.

Much continues.

A new governmental/citizen entity — The Manchac Greenway Commission — was created by Parish Ordinances in St. John and Tangipahoa and is composed Parish Council representatives, two staff members from each Parish Administration and three members from the Friends of the Manchac Greenway.

“It is meant to have a considerable ability to coordinate with federal, state and regional agencies and other outside interests as well as seek funding resources,” Taylor said.

Louisiana DOTD is installing “Share the Road” signs along the Greenway in St. John Parish to increase safety and help the Greenway “branding.”

Friends of the Manchac Greenway submitted grant applications for several projects that could be leveraged with other funds to enhance improvement projects.

Taylor said use of the Shell Bank Canoe Launch in St. John has increased “tremendously over the years, bringing thousands of eco-tourism dollars to the Parish and turning on thousands of Greenway visitors, particularly folks from area cities, to the incredible beauty (and accessibility) of the Greenway’s neighboring wetlands.”

Tangipahoa Parish Government signed a Joint Use Agreement with Louisiana DOTD to manage the North Pass Boat Launch.

“They jumped right to it by performing much needed repairs to the docks, including adding a canoe launch dock,” Taylor said.

“They are considering a number of projects to improve this huge facility that also includes the informally named Carter/Reagan Incomplete Manchac Exit Park and enhance its usefulness and enjoyment by the public.”

Friends of the Manchac Greenway members recently commended the Manchac Boating Association, Tangi Clean, Keep St. John Beautiful, Coastal Conservation Association and the staff of Middendorf’s for “routinely pitching-in” on litter pickup projects.