Nature path nearly ready in Lafourche
By JACOB BATTE
The Daily Comet
LOCKPORT, La. (AP) — A nature path aimed at highlighting the features of the Louisiana cypress swamp could open before Christmas.
The 400-foot walkway off La. 308 in north Lockport curves around old, large trees in the cypress swamp where hikers will even get to see an old truck that's underwater and surrounded by vegetation.
Lafourche Parish project manager Terry Arabie said the truck is one of his favorite focal points along the trail.
"The truck has been there for a while. How it got there, I don't know. Somebody may have come down go here in the 1800s and forgot about it, or it may have been dumped in the swamp," Arabie said, laughing.
The parish is building an access road and parking lot before it opens the nature walk to the public. Because they're being set in a low-lying area, the road and lot have to be elevated before the recycled blacktop can be laid down. The parish is laying stretches of wet soil for the road and the lot, which measures 75 feet by 100 feet.
While the nature walk will be a pleasant attraction, Arabie said the area is not safe for drivers yet. The wet soil laid down can cause vehicles to get stuck, and the walk has a gap between the beginning of the path and the access road.
Arabie said the parish has placed a gate up at night to keep drivers off the access road. Once construction is complete the gate will be moved farther up the road so the walkway will be open to the public.
The $122,879 parking lot was funded mostly by the Recreational Trails Program of the Louisiana Office of State Parks. The lot will accommodate about 20 cars.
Public works director Don Edwards said the parish is handling all the parking lot construction, which should take up to four weeks to complete once the soil is dry.
The lot could be completed sooner, but handling the work in-house is more cost-effective, Edwards said. Also delaying the work is the weather.
"With the weather we've been having, we've been catching hell trying to haul the dirt in there," Arabie said.
Construction on the nature walk began in April and ended in early August.
Construction wasn't easy, Arabie said. Constant rains and environmental concerns delayed the project a little bit at a time.
"We had to cut some minor trees, but we didn't want to touch any of the bigger trees," Arabie said.
Workers had to tread lightly, wearing waist-high boots and working in the water.
Arabie said the parish has already secured the right of way to extend the walk once it obtained more money.
"We want to keep going through the cypress swamp and into the open area. If we can get some money, we'll try to do another 400 feet. We want to bring it through the whole open area," Arabie said.
Councilman Phillip Gouaux said once the walk has been completed, it will offer a unique attraction for tourists.
"Outsiders that want to experience the actual swamp atmosphere can see the nature of the swamp, and they'll be able to walk out over areas that you would normally need some waders," Gouaux said.
Gouaux said there aren't many opportunities for tourists to experience a cypress swamp around here. Because of the walk's unique perspective, the tourism commission should be able to use it as an attraction. That's a money maker for the parish.
"It's going to bring them off the beaten path. They're going to come out and need fuel, they'll need to eat, and we have several restaurants in the area," Gouaux said. "It will be a positive for Lafourche ."