Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Times calls on Demerath for end-of-year quality of life outlook for Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
Below is the copy from the Sun, Dec 27, Shreveport Times story on local quality of life issues. The headline: "Loren Demerath: We don't have to accept existing landscape"

Loren Demerath, a Centenary College professor, has been active in A Better Shreveport (, a nonprofit organization working to improve our quality of life. The group's interests have ranged from connecting the city's green spaces to establishing bicycle lanes.

Q: From your group's quality of life perspective, what is our greatest challenge as a community?

A: The greatest challenge is two-fold: an infrastructure centered around automobiles that has created suburban sprawl, and a culture of thinking about our city as undeserving of radical change.

As for the first challenge, we have to overcome our tendency to build certain kinds of streets, neighborhoods, and retail districts that discourage walking and biking. If we don't do that, we will continue to live lives in Shreveport that are not as healthy and happy as they would otherwise be.

We also face the challenge of overcoming an acceptance of those conditions. Many believe Shreveport does not have the resources of more popular, growing cities to counter those conditions. They believe we can't afford to build bike paths and greenways, or to provide incentives for retailers to locate downtown on Texas Street, and to generally create a city where people would prefer to live over any other city. But as any business person knows, if you don't invest in your product, it won't sell; further, there are always ways of improving your product and increasing your share of the market.

Q: What is your organization's primary goal for the coming year?

A: The goal of our downtown group is to revitalize the Texas Avenue corridor running from Common Street to Murphy Street, in part by creating a cultural district for resident-artists. The transportation group seeks to hold city bike tours, and to develop bike lanes, sharrows, and signage throughout the city that will encourage biking for transportation. The goal of the greenways group is to begin construction of a Coates Bluff Greenway between East Washington and Stoner Avenue running behind Caddo Magnet High School. As well as closing the gap between the Clyde Fant bike path and our residential neighborhoods of Highland, South Highland, and Broadmoor, it would provide an example of how beautiful and enriching greenways can be in Shreveport, and would stimulate demand similar greenways throughout our city.

Q: How can the community assist you in your group's mission?

A: Anyone with ideas about how to improve Shreveport's quality of life is invited to join our group. Our meetings are regularly Monday nights (less regularly over school breaks) and are open to anyone who is interested. People can read our blog at to see what we've discussed, what we're working on, or what's on the agendas of upcoming meetings. Our next meeting will be 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11, in room 216 of Centenary Square, across the street from George's Grill.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ABetterShreveport: Stacye Palmer, National Park Service, New Orleans

A Better Shreveport guest on Dec 7 was Stacye Palmer of the National Park Service's Louisiana Office in New Orleans. Palmer has helped ABS build a plan for the Coates Bluff Greenway.

Loren Demerath's notes from the meeting:
Meeting Notes 12.7
Present: Cynthia Keith, Carolyn Manning, John Davenpot, Jon Soul, Feico Kempff, Stacye Palmer, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Robert Trudeau, David Aubry
Jon's Homework
Stacye's Data
Robert's long term event planning
Task and Timeline for Coates Bluff

Bayou birding report from Jon: double digets every day: egrets, cormorans, great blue herons, mallards; with the Montessori students he does bird counts every day; the elementary students go onto the trail down to the beaver lodge...
The group discussed the need to give David Alexander the specifics of how much land is required. The width of the city's right of way to the south is at least 25 feet, maybe 50; can ask to continue that up to Stoner.

The group discussed what else could help the Riverscape developers and investors see the benefit of the greenway, and Jon said he could share the powerpoint that explains the history of the old river that constitutes this bayou and land strip. Although the group noted how Riverscape stands to benefit from the greenway as much as anyone, it was noted that unless there's one in Shreveport, they wo't necessarily know what it would be like. Maurice noted there was a sort of path running through the area by 70th and Pines Road. Another runs in front of the apartments virutally next door to Riverscape with a tunnel to the riverside bike path.

Feico noted that the Riverscape people don't know what we want from them. It was also noted that RS has a second bottom line of community impact, and greenways help that; the investors require return on that second bottom line. Some warned, though, that once the "dirt flies" it may be too late.

It was suggested that we ask the city for help in getting the land surveyed to get the information Riverscape needs to plan for the greenway. We decided to ask Monty Walford to ask for 10-15K for a greenways feasability study that would include surveying the Coates Bluff greenway land. Stacye Palmer also noted that the National Park Service might be able to help us as well. Bill Lane is an expert in drafting those kinds of plans.

It was also noted that we need to ask Superintendent Dawkins for permission to access to school grounds, and Charlotte Crawley could be our leison there. One person said the school board was about to do a facilities and programmatic master plan; they've got 24 people they've requested to have serve, and could use one from our group

John Davenport said we can use the term riparian corridor; which is forest along a waterway; we're asking for a corridor along their western boundary to the east bank of the riparian corridor; please think about us as you move forward.

Carolyn said we need to get people's emails that are interested in supporting greenways. We can send out the Greenways newsletter to them to keep them posted on what we're doing and what we need help with.

Just for the record, to keep readers posted of what we're doing, the following email messages were sent the next day to David Alexander and Monty Walford, respectively:


At this week's meeting on the Coates Bluff Greenway, David Aubry told us that your partners in the Riverscape Development would be town this next week. While we are still in process of developing surveys, we would indulge you to include space for the greenway in your plans. We are asking the City Council to give SPAR money to fund a greenways feasibility study, that would include surveying the land needed for the Coates Bluff Greenway.

This would be a greenway and bike path that would be sensitive to and enhanced by the existing riparian corridor from Sevier St. to Stoner Ave., and connecting to Veterans Park which in turn networks through tunnels to the Clyde Fant bike path.

Without this greenway, Riverscape residents will be looking across Clyde Fant to the city's main bike path, but have no way to ride their bikes to it. With the greenway, residents would have full access, and Riverscape would undoubtedly be a saughtafter place to live.

Clearly, the greenway will help both your economic and your community impact bottom lines. I've attached a powerpoint presentation that summarizes the concept of the greenway. Also, as soon as we have them completed, we will also be sending you copies of a promotional brochure being printed for us by the National Park Service.

Thank you, in advance, David, for keeping the greenway in your plans. We feel absolutely confident that it is a project that will benefit not only Shreveport generally, but Riverscape in particular.

Dr. Loren Demerath
Executive Director, ABetterShreveport


At our ABetterShreveport meeting last night, we decided it was time to ask for help. We request that SPAR conduct a greenways feasibility study, and as part of that study, to survey the area of the proposed Coates Bluff Greenway. We believe SPAR would require funding of ten to fifteen thousand dollars for the study. We gather this would mean that you would request an ammendment to SPAR's budget at the Friday meeting.

The greenway needs to move forward quickly, as the Riverscape Development will be breaking ground soon. One of the developers, David Alexander of Vintage Realty, has told us that the investors would be open to the idea of donating land for the greenway, but they need to know how much land we need, and where exactly it would be. We can tell them once the survey work is done.

Thank you, in advance, for your help, Monty. We're certainly grateful to have a councilman such as yourself who understands what greenways and bike paths can do for a city's quality of life.

Dr. Loren Demerath
Executive Director of ABetterShreveport
and Chair of the Sociology Department at Centenary College

As a follow-up to these messages, I can note that I had a positive response from David Alexander. He said his group is still open to the idea and wanted to keep our lines of communication open.

Although I haven't heard back from Monty, I'll have to admit I didn't have time to call and follow up the email message. It was a last minute request.
- Loren

Monday, December 7, 2009

ABetterShreveport: bird life rife on the Coates Bluff waterway

Jon Soul and his students at Montessori School for Shreveport are noting the very active duck and bird population visiting the Anderson Island / Coates Bluff waterway.

ABetterShreveport moving on the Coates Bluff Greenway initiative

On the table at the 12/04 meeting: letter to keep the Coates Bluff Greenway project on the Riverscape Development agenda, contacting Caddo Schools superintendant Dawkins and getting a budget from city monies for making a proper land use proposal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Television Coverage of ABetterShreveport Meeting Describes Work on Coates Bluff Greenway

Much thanks to KTAL Channel 6 reporter Karen Hopkins for attending our meeting last night and telling people about the Coates Bluff Greenway.

Here's the web version of Karen's report:

Reported by: Karen Hopkins

Monday, Nov 30, 2009 @10:02pm CST

There could be more opportunities to ditch the gas guzzler for a more scenic route.

A nonprofit group called “A Better Shreveport is working on a new bike path. The mile route would go through a forested area, from East Washington street, to Stoner Ave. Bikers could ride to three schools along the route and two city parks.

"There’s not a lot of biking options in Shreveport. Many people are disappointed they can't bike around," Loren Demerath says.

A Better Shreveport says the path could increase property values and even reduce crime. The group is looking for federal and state grants to pay for the project.

To get involved with A Better Shreveport, visit its blog:"

And for any interested in dropping by a meeting, please do! We meet Monday nights at 6:15, room 216 at Centenary Square, across the street from George's Grill.