Friends of the Manchac Greenway advances green initiatives at recent board meeting

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Friends of the Manchac Greenway (FMG) gathered at the St. John Parish Courthouse Code Enforcement Meeting Room on Thursday, Sept. 21, for a board meeting. Key stakeholders from the community, government, and environmental organizations convened to discuss various greenway initiatives and ongoing projects aimed at enhancing the region’s natural spaces.

The meeting began with an attendance roll call, including Rene Erickson, Tara Lambeth and Dov Block from St. John Parish Planning and Permits, Robert Arcuri from St. John Parish Council Dist. 5, Greg Za Maurin and Dwight Williams from the Pontchartrain Conservancy, and Galen Schum, Thomas Dumas, Eva Hillman and Lucien Gauff of the St. John Parish Assessor’s office.

The previous meeting’s minutes were unanimously accepted by acclimation.

Galen Schum presented a financial update, reporting an ending balance of $7,480.47 in the organization’s bank account. To ensure the long-term security of funds, Schum recommended moving $6,000.00 into an interest-bearing savings account, a proposal that was also accepted by acclimation.

Tara Lambeth announced that work on the Manchac Greenway Master Plan, led by Digital Engineering, is set to commence in the upcoming fall. Lambeth emphasized the importance of community input throughout the planning process. 

Additionally, Ben, a participant in the meeting, highlighted the need for a Joint Use Agreement between the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LA DOTD) and the Parish or another relevant authority to facilitate the implementation of Master Plan improvements.

Bike Easy in New Orleans has been actively considering the advancement of the Louisiana Bootlace Bike Trail project. Plans for another stakeholder meeting in the spring of 2024 were discussed. The organization is also involved in addressing bicycle route safety concerns in the city and engaging in discussions with Jefferson Parish regarding proposed bike lanes and walkways.

A significant development in the meeting was the approval from the Coastal Planning and Restoration Act (CPRA) for $75,000 worth of shoreline restoration and recreational fishing improvements at Sunset Park. 

The project, which includes the use of riprap, soil, and vegetation, does not currently include plans for a new fishing pier. Digital Engineering is working on a planting program suitable for the shore, featuring live oak, cypress, and salt-resistant grasses.

Furthermore, discussions around a Louisiana Outdoors Forever grant for park enhancements are ongoing, with a 50/50 chance of success. It was also noted that the park’s surveillance camera has recently been restored.

Despite unresolved issues surrounding the Lake Maurepas CO2 Storage project, FMG has formed a committee to explore the potential utilization of grant money offered by Air Products for Greenway improvements. Lucien Gauff emphasized the importance of submitting sizable and ambitious requests.

Robert Arcuri reported that work on the Westshore Protection Levee Project, which spans across the Greenway, is currently in full swing. The project involves eight different contracts, including dirt hauling and interior canal excavation. 

It is expected to be completed by 2026, with progress updates available on the project’s Facebook page. Additionally, Arcuri highlighted efforts to augment the protection of the east side of the Isthmus of Manchac in St. John Parish through stone armoring.

Dr. Gary Shaffer, from the Southeastern Louisiana University Biology Department, plans to undertake tree planting behind the new breakwater, funded by Air Products, as part of an environmental conservation initiative.

Eva Hillman reported that the Pontchartrain Conservancy continues its tree plantings on Southeastern Louisiana University property at the eastern end of Jones Island. The extreme summer heat had a minimal impact, with only 20% of recently planted trees being lost. The Restore the Earth Foundation is also set to recreate its ambitious tree plantings on the Isthmus of Manchac, this time using nutria guards for protection.

The meeting concluded with an announcement of the next FMG board meeting scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, at the St. John Parish Courthouse Code Enforcement Meeting Room, located at 1811 W. Airline Hwy., Laplace.