Friends of the Manchac Greenway continues pursuing funding opportunities

Published 5:30 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

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LAPLACE — Friends of the Manchac Greenway had its first meeting of the new year on January 26 at the St. John Parish Government building in LaPlace as members continue hammering away at projects for the public good. 

The Manchac Greenway is the stretch of land between LaPlace and Ponchatoula that carries a long history of providing recreational access to surrounding wetlands and waterways. Friends of the Manchac Greenway is working toward a professionally prepared Master Plan for the Greenway to gain a leg up when it comes to securing funding sources for a number of projects. 

Some plans for the Manchac Greenway include realizing the Ring Around the Lake bike trail, restoring Sunset Park, promoting the Adopt-a-Road litter program, repurposing Port Manchac, and completing a Manchac exit rest area. 

During the most recent meeting, contractor Frank Neelis discussed the possibility of contacting Louisiana cycling groups to gauge interest in forming a statewide organization. 

Friends of the Manchac Greenway member Ben Taylor described an upcoming federal transportation “Reconnecting Communities Grant” that may help solve the problem at the north end of the isthmus, where road construction cuts off bike and pedestrian traffic necessary to the Greenway and Louisiana Bootlace Network. 

St. John Parish Planning and Zoning Director Tara Lambeth applied for a Scenic Byway Grant to help fund the Manchac Greenway Master Plan. Results of the grant are expected to be released soon, and Lambeth is continuing to research other sources of grant funding. 

Lambeth said a CPRA grant has been awarded to Sunset Park, and work will commence soon on shoreline improvements and plantings. She also mentioned Urban Systems’ planning report for the NO Regional Planning Commission on the Manchac Greenway in the LaPlace area is complete, and funding is being sought for planning the route from LaPlace to Pass Manchac. 

St. John Parish District 5 Councilman Robert Arcuri has also been deeply involved with the Manchac Greenway planning. Arcuri noted that work is being done to secure a location for a ramp between the Southern end of the Greenway in LaPlace and the Mississippi River Levee-top Bike Trail. 

Members also discussed ongoing and upcoming infrastructure projects impacting the area surrounding the Greenway. Work is continuing on the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection levee, and a recently selected mitigation feature to the project is intended to restore the area’s wetlands. 

An unrelated project led by Air Products involves the potential sequestering of CO2 underneath Lake Maurepas in preparation for a new blue hydrogen facility planned for Ascension Parish. While Arcuri reported that he is not necessarily against sequestering CO2 underground, he is against storing it under Lake Maurepas due to potential impacts to pipelines and other disruptions. 

Taylor proposed drafting a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards requesting protection for Lake Maurepas in the same manner the surrounding wetlands have been protected by Wildlife & Fisheries Wildlife Management Areas. 

The next Friends of the Manchac Greenway meeting will be held at 2 p.m. February 23 on the Gator’s Den back deck or at the neighboring Sunset Stop in Galva. 

— Brooke R. Cantrelle contributed to this report.