Rain washes out Christmas in the Crevasse; Riding Center seeks ditch and maintenance help

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

LAPLACE — From overnight Thursday to early Sunday evening, the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center in LaPlace was inundated with the worst floodwaters seen since Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

More than 50 percent of the 15-acre farmland located at 152 Shadowbrook Lane was at least one to two feet underwater, according to Riding Center Executive Director Anita Hefler.

The water entered cars and houses on nearby streets Paula Drive, Kathy Drive and Marcia Street, Hefler said. On the farm grounds, goats were left stranded by water creeping up on their enclosures, though no animals were harmed.

While flooding is not typically as severe when the pumps are turned on early, Hefler said a nearby ditch often drains water into the farm.

“We have issues with the ditch because of the lack of maintenance on it, and it’s so close to the property,” Hefler said. “We’ve been with the parish. We’ve talked with them about it, and we even threatened to close it up. I don’t know what we have to do to get a flapper valve so this doesn’t happen again. That’s a one-way valve so that when water comes from the other way, it closes it up.”

Hefler said she noticed water draining toward the pumps on Saturday, though a foot of standing water remained hours later.

On other occasions, pumps have been effective at draining rain runoff while damaging other parts of the property, Hefler said.

“Every time they turn on the pumps, it sucks a whole bunch of our soil,” Hefler said. “We’ve lost seven or eight trees this year that lost their footing. Something needs to be done about it.”

One of the biggest impacts of unanticipated weather last month was its impact on the riding center’s Christmas in the Crevasse – A Holiday Hayride fundraiser.

Hefler said Christmas in the Crevasse delighted approximately 350 guests with holiday lights after its Thanksgiving Day opening but could’ve drawn a larger impact.

The fundraiser collected $1,400 over 11 nights. It was closed for rain or flooding nine nights, including Dec. 28 to Dec. 30, the last weekend of operation.

Last year’s fundraiser collected $3,000 to pay for insurance, advertising and operation costs.

Now that the floodwater has receded, the challenge is keeping horses and other animals off the pastures.

“We’ve been advised that it needs to dry and then get a good rain, and to keep and eye out for what is growing; grass or weeds,” Hefler said.

“There are oil slicks on the ground, and the smell of the water was pretty bad. Not a fun way to finish out the year, but we are looking forward to next year.

Hefler said she wants to say thank you to everyone who came out to support the center and offer encouraging words.

Founded in 1993, the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center is a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and adults with physical, emotional and learning disabilities build motor skills and confidence through horseback riding.

Cost of classes have remained at $25 for 26 years to defray costs for families, while costs of operations have risen to about $80 per class.

Fundraisers such as Christmas in the Crevasse and Harley for Horses, scheduled for April 28 with a rainout day of May 5 this year, raise money for classes.