Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jon Soul to lead Coates Bluff Nature Trail walk on NYE: Fri, Dec 31, 3 pm

Jon says, "Meet at the MSS parking lot off Sevier Rd., walk the full-length to Valencia, maybe see a little of the cemetery, and then take the nature-loop coming back. I'm thinking that would be between 1 - 1/2 hours of walking/talking time."

Those of you who need to take a shorter hike may stop and return to your vehicle at any time, of course.

Friday, December 17, 2010

KSCL / Time for A Better Shreveport: Michael Laffey, Robert Trudeau, Carolyn Manning, Cazes Verbois, Loren Demerath

Happy holidays. Want to join some of us for a hike on the newly-developed Coates Bluff Nature Trail? We're planning 2 hikes - one the week of Dec 20 and one on New Year's Eve. Bring your friends, your children.


Btw: Michael Laffey is Centenary's faculty sponsor for KSCL and Cazes Verbois is student manager of the station. Verbois produces the ABS broadcasts each week.

We'll return to the air the second Monday in Jan at 5 pm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coffeeshops, Bike Sharing, Master Plan Implementation, Dog Park "Reinvention" at Last Meeting

We had a good meeting at Cohabitat again last week. Topics ranged included bike-sharing programs, the dog park discussions “reinventing the wheel,” master plan implementation, and coffee shops.

In attendance: Jen Anderson, Steph Pedro, Loren Demerath, Maurice Loridans, Robert Trudeau, Cynthia Keith.

We welcomed Jen Anderson, a wildlife ecologist returning to town after being away since high school. We mentioned Murray Lloyd, and Coates Bluff, and the need for people to have access to forest trails and wildlife. Anderson and Pedro used to explore Coates Bluff years ago before college.


The group talked about the failures bike-sharing programs where ever there are mandatory helmet laws. D.C., and Denver have successful ones in this country. Many people don't bike because they don't have bikes or have flats, don't want to maintain the bikes, etc. But the costs of to a city of maintaining shared bikes, or by supporting a bike coop could be easily off-set by saving money in street repair with lower rates of automobile use. A similar economic logic supports public transit improvements.


The group looked at the letter to Councilman Jenkins in which we thanked him for attending last week’s meeting. We noted that our fundraising for the dog park would be greatly assisted by a letter of commitment from him. In that letter he could note what we discussed at our last meeting: that he will propose a change to the leash laws in town that would allow a dog park. Moreover, Jenkins could note that he will work to have the city designate land at Hammel Memorial Park and to have SPAR maintain it, also reminding him that Shelly Raigle has already indicated she supports this scenario.


The group discussed the park and its location. It was noted there are two elephants buried in Shreveport, one along Fairfield behind a house by Kirby, and one in one of the mounds at Hammel Memorial Park. (!!)

Keith recounted her conversations with the Tourist Bureau. Anderson said it was ridiculous that they want to reinvent dog parks when they've been done successfully elsewhere. Outlawing pit bulls may be questionable; Jen Anderson said they're not the number one biting dog, poodles are. But some people will not take their dogs to parks where there are pit bulls. Loridans noted they've been bred to attack other dogs and he wouldn't take his. Anderson said she wouldn't move back to Shreveport unless there was a dog park where she could take her pit bull. Keith noted that dogs behave differently when they're taken off the leash, they keep their eyes on their owners, don't want to stray from them, and are less territorial away from their own yards.

Steph Pedro talked to Kevin Flowers from the Tourist Bureau, and he said he would like to come to some of our meetings. He had worked with Liz Swain at KTBS.


Robert Trudeau reported that Criag Durrett wrote an editorial this past week on both master plans for the city and Caddo Schools (“Vision 2020”). The plans say what we should have down the road. It's a good platform for thinking but he didn't have a lot of citizen input. Instead of saying “You want to see Creswell Elementary close?” one could focus on what we could gain by rebuilding that school. We won't have Goody-Clancy anymore to facilitate this discussions, so we may drop the ball. Keith said the Citizens Advisory Group still exists and has been tasked with being a watch dog for the Master Plan and helping to make sure that the ideas in the plan are implemented. Just last week the Master Plan was officially adopted by the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Durrett was doing his own analysis of the two plans; not an in-depth analysis, but more of a glancing essay. Trudeau wondered if there was a way the Master Plan be repackaged to put it in the public discourse. Does CAG have a budget for it? The Master Plan itself is redundant as things reappear. But to make it more accessible, a facebook page, youtube videos, etc., might be helpful. Keith mentioned that she thinks CAG is charged with tracking implementation. It wasn’t know if they have a budget for it.

Loridans mentioned that in all the discussion about the Creswell school closing, there’s been very little talk about where to build the next one, what it could be like, how it could lead to safe routes to school, other opportunities that are consistent with the Master Plan.


Trudeau asked Pedro what she thinks about communication in this town, being a newcomer returning to the city after college and grad school, like Anderson. She said we don't have an entertainment guide. We have a Fun Guide but it doesn't have a lot of things, and isn’t an entertainment weekly you can pick up at the grocery store. Anderson said she’s tried to find sites for roots culture and communicate with other people her age and its so hard to find anything like that here. It was noted that the Naked Bean Cafe is often mostly high school students. They're not open on Saturday morning til 10, and not open at all on Sunday. It was noted that the Naked Bean’s success would benefit Shreveport. The innovative live music emphasis is a real plus, as is its location and its friendly owners and staff. Improvements could be lighting (lamps to replace fluorescent lights), and carpeting for better acoustics. It offers a range of music, for example every Monday is bluegrass night. A lot of people go to Barnes and Nobel and Starbucks, but they're almost overcrowded. There aren't those types of areas by and large, and that's a big problem.

Pedro also noted she’s encountered people having low self-esteem about the city. Trudeau noted his blog has been writen to combat that.

Loridans was one of two people listed in Shreveport on, the hospitality site for touring cyclists, and meets such people that way. The cyclists who came through from Oregon found the Naked Bean. Steve Godfrey happened to be there, as was Pete Fetterman. They all road down the perfect bike thoroughfare that is Thornhill to the Loridans house and they were impressed by how bikable Shreveport is.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Councilman Oliver Jenkins and Former Councilman Calvin Lester Attend First ABS Meeting at Cohabitat

CoHabitat Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
In attendance: Oliver Jenkins, Calvin Lester, Dan Marcalus, Maurice Loridans, Caroline Majors, Feico Kempff, Stephanie Pedro, Cynthia Keith, David Aubry, Loren Demerath.

Notes by Loren Demerath -

Councilman Oliver Jenkins reported that SPAR Director Shelly Raigle said her expectation was that the city would likely maintain it and provide the land and basic infrastructure, but with the additional costs of walling, benches, and fountains being funded through private donations. Jenkins wasn’t sure about how much revenue we could get for it. He said we need concrete deliverables and timelines; more fidelity on roles and steps involved. We need an “operational plan” in military terms. Jenkins said he thought the Hammels area was an improvement over Stoner/Veterans. He also noted, though, that while an elected official can support a idea, there are significant budgetary constraints. He said there have been many deferred maintenance projects of streets, sewers, water, and drainage; to make this work we would need it be a public-private partnership. Jenkins and Aubry both thought the bond issue is not the place for it; it would get lost with the other stuff. Aubry said people have been supportive of the dog park, but it hasn’t had a political champion. Given what has happened to Spar with all budget cuts, no one will make a decision right now. Jenkins said he is happy to be the promoter of that particular ordinance; he’ll sign up for that role, though he noted it’s not a blank check; it depends on budgets what would happen. But he also said there should be no trouble getting private funding for it. Jenkins noted that the Greenwood cemetery project was able to raise a significant amount of money in a short period of time once the offer to match funds came in. Jenkins and Aubry said we can’t put it in SPAR to track, we’re the ones that have the passion to track it. Jenkins said he had someone in mind.

Keith said Raigle said she feels she’s got the money in her budget to take care of it. Ron Webb had earlier said please wait until after the elections. Lester said just because something is the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean there will be support enough get it done. The thing that’s important is to create an advocacy group to help Jenkins help us; but when it come to spending city council resources, coucilpersons become parochial and territorial. By definition the funds used to complete it are surplus funds, there is no category; someone else could say why is yours more valuable than mine? When Shelly says we have leftover money; someone else could make a bid for that surplus money. The more the group comes to the table with, the easier it makes it for him. Put a condition on it where if they raise a certain amount; their hard work is rewarded. Demerath asked if it could be promoted as a pool of money that could be used for dog parks throughout the city, but Jenkins said multiplying it by seven makes it unfeasible. Lester said he was trying to support bayous and linear parks since there are as many bayous in his part of town as another. It was also noted that the riverfront is seen as a city-wide area, being contiguous to downtown and a major recreational space. Lester said if we were to actively solicit pet owners by district and have them email and write their councilpeople, real momentum could be created, and, in addition to private fundraising, could make it happen relatively easily. Keith noted the development of the riverfront is easily inexpensively helped by this. Ford Park, among other spaces, have also been mentioned as places where low scale dog park areas could be set up; places where there can be fenced in areas. Jenkins reminded us that the more you can get done from a resource standpoint the easier it is to sell it. Jenkins knows what his deliverable is, and he’s got Keith’s email. He said we need a timeline; there are too many moving parts, particularly ones we don’t control. We might find a particular contact who’d be amenable to supporting it.

Aubry said we can get sponsors for things like the benches. And, the more groups that are supporting it financially and otherwise, the better. Aubry said there needs to be a non-governmental person who likes to do tv and interviews and can be outspoken. Keith has been good at that but has a governmental affiliation in the tax assessor’s office. Carolyn Manning was mentioned as being a good spokesperson. Stephanie noted that some of us are better at different aspects; writing letters, etc. Let’s start raising some money.


The group then discussed how the rules of the park would work, and generally agreed it can follow the models that have been used so successfully elsewhere. Can have some sort of gatekeeping function; big signs will post the regulations. It will be fenced with large and small dog areas, removing the predator-prey aspect. And if you decide it’s not for you as you look at it with your dog, you’ve got the whole rest of the park to walk with your dog.

Lester asked who we saw as the custodian; we saw SPAR; it would mainly involve cutting the grass, which they do in these places already. Liability is taken care of in rule and regulations that people agree to when they enter the park. A tag is not done elsewhere, and may not be necessary. Lester said it may be better to be safe than sorry. There are things you can do to zero the risk and make any suit a frivolous suit. For out-of-town visitors, could have the paperwork at the tourist information center; put it on the web; can make it in addition to the rabies tag; or it could work on the same principle that public playgrounds use – there’s no paperwork there to protect the city from suits, but it is somehow protected.


Majors and Pedro met again with Kent Rogers of NLCOG last week about the bike-ped plan, and they are enthused about developing partnerships and getting governmental leadership support; NLCOG is on board. They’re in the process of seeing if the city and parish would be on board with it, and working on find a home for the plan once its delivered; also to maybe partner with Bossier; non-profit groups would be good targets as well; benefits of public health, environmental health and appreciation, economic development, all reasons for the plan that are in the state bike-ped plan already are in the rationale for this plan as well.

Pictures were passed around of an architectural salvage store Feico found in Fort Worth. A nice old building that is now used for people to drop off reusable building materials (often for money) that other people can come and buy very cheaply.

Demerath announced the Centenary Urban Sociology Student Service-Learning Project on December 9th, next Thursday at 6:00 at Cohabitat. Among the projects will be a photo inventory of downtown buildings, a compilation of oral histories about downtown, a survey of residents surrounding a potential greenway, and a project linking high schools with higher education. The public is invited.

Sportran is getting a number of new buses that burn natural gas.

Grace Peterson was noted as doing cool stuff with recently with community gardening and schools and educating about local food systems. (She had been on the radio show that night with community gardeners!)

Maurice mentioned an Allendale food coop to target the food desert problem; it wouldn’t sell alcohol, tobacoo, or lottery tickets, but just healthy food. Lester noted he happened to help make that happen; part of working to use the over-abundance of adjudicated properties.

Demerath noted Leia Lewis’ program of Green Circles, with its first orientation meeting going on that night. It’s looking to provide stipends during training of low income, unemployed, and formerly incarcerated people in urban agriculture techniques and then employ them in urban agriculture. Lester noted that pushing supply and a more active Farmers Market pushing demand, could be a good combination.

The meeting went so well there at Cohabitat, a number of us decided to continue it there for the foreseeable future! Here’s to working collaboratively on downtown (and such), in a collaborative workspace, downtown! Hope others can make the shift.

See you next Monday at Cohabitat, 6:00 to 7:00, as usual!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Inspiration from abroad: Carolyn & Huw Thomas of Shelterbox

Shelterbox, an international disaster aid foundation, was founded in England by one fellow, says Huw Thomas. The founder's Rotary Club took up the idea - of distributing a box containing tent, food, kid pack, etc to those in dire need - and today the organization is active in 18 nations.

Carolyn & Huw Thomas
are bicycling ambassadors for Shelterbox. They are crossing the country by tandem.

They were guests of Carolyn Manning as they passed through Shreveport. And were articulate guests on Time for A Better Shreveport.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meetings with NLCOG, Sportran discussed; next meeting at Cohabitat on 29th

In attendance: Caroline Majors, Jon Soul, David Aubry, Cynthia Keith, Deidre Hewitt, Stacye Palmer, Loren Demerath, Steph Pedro, Feico Kempff, Dan Marcalus, Robert Currie


Caroline Majors described the earlier meeting that took place between Loren, Steph, herself and Deidre Hewitt and Stacye Palmer of the National Park Service. They developed the following expectations for what would happen: 1: get a list from NPS on what they can help us with (a scope of services); 2: get a handout (half-page or so) of marketing pieces that help describe Coates Bluff and bike-ped plan respectively; 3: relying on volunteer time has kept us back in putting out promotional pieces, but Stacye will come up and help us give the presentations; her doing that, in addition to Ian (solicited earlier for that purpose) and any others who are willing to promote, will help us reach more people. Stacye’s involvement will add more legitimacy, since she represents the National Park Service; 4: brainstorm on best practices on Coates Bluff trail and how to make it sustainable.

PEDRO MEETS WITH NLCOG AND KENT ROGERS – May help find funding for bike-ped plan. ABS to have cheerleader and public communication role.

Steph described her latest meetings with Kent Rogers, Director of NLCOG (North Louisiana Council of Governments) which is our region’s official Metropolitan Planning Organization (every region’s “MPO” is responsible for developing long-term transportation plans). Her meetings have yielded a good relationship with NLCOG where Kent sees possibilities for support for the bike-ped plan, both through governmental funding, and partnerships and private support. Hope and optimism were expressed that Kent Rogers and NLCOG will help find funding for the plan.

It was noted that our role at ABS can be to publicize the value of a bike-plan. As we all know, making our city more bike-able and walkable will enhance the quality of life here, and thus also increase the likelihood of businesses locating here. (This is particularly true of any industries such as technology or entertainment that employ many members of “the creative class” (Richard Florida, 2002) who are more likely to know about and adopt progressive, innovative lifestyle patterns that have succeeded elsewhere.) Suffice it to say that the benefits of planning for human powered transportation in a city are strong and diverse. Health, environmental responsibility, economic development, and more can be improved by making a city more bike-able and walkable, and a bicycle-pedestrian plan is an essential first step. Shreveport’s never had one!

It was noted that ABS can serve a vital role in the process by serving as a cheerleader and a communicator to the public of the plan’s importance. And not, it was noted, with a negative griping tone (“gotcha journalism” and “throw the bums out”) can be self-defeating, making people feel like success isn’t likely or possible. There are always things to do. When we emphasize what’s possible, and the steps to take, people feel empowered, take action, and positive things happen!

Aside from our hopes of assistance in finding funding from NLCOG, though, it was noted that ABS has not developed a fundraising strategy. NPS could help us with that as well.


Steph Pedro described her recent meeting with administrators of Sportran, and recounted Gene Eddy’s positive responses to our group’s concerns and willingness to help. The gist of the meeting is that Sportran now sees us as an ally in helping improvements happen. Here, again, one of ABS’s roles can be as a cheerleader in increasing awareness of how our area’s public transit system can be better, and how it would help things like, yes, again, quality of life, health, environmental responsibility, economic development, etc.

Steph noted we may also be able to help collect data for Sportran on what riders would like for improvements. Although we were previously asked not to conduct a survey, we now may be asked to help.

Gene Eddy hasn’t spent certain monies yet. So, he’s going to have a public input process to find out what people want. Would be a public open meeting. Could be surveying people as well?

This week 14 CNG buses are being put into service (out of how many total for the fleet?). This is out of the ammenities fund. 40 stop improvements are going be constructed at some point. (It’s on the web site.) Gene said he liked how ABS is promoting public transit improvements on the radio show and the blog. He didn’t agree to be on the show but would consider it. He talked about the extended routes into nighttime (Night Owl Routes); Sharron Swanson worked with the interfaith group to get that implemented; Reconnecting with that group would be good, headed by Barbara Jerrell. CM: one fo the major issues is that it’s very narrow market that its serving only them only partially well; in places where it works it’s better invested and works better; it needs to be broaded; Feico said they could be given college student passes; the schools could support it; if they committed to a certain number of cards, the buses would follow. It would be a coordinating exercise that would constitute a strategic approach. Gene said he wanted surveys at the bus stops themselves rather than on the buses; e.g. students or ABS people. We could do it next semester.


Involving city and other partners early helps; otherwise they feel imposed upon.

David Aubry reported they have worked on the 70th to Automall bike path.


Dan Marcalus: “A Taste of Highland” in May with food and music on Robinson and Thornhill. Meant to show off Highland and the restaurants within it. The plan is to do it every other year.

Robert Curry said in the first week in March they’ll have “Everything Crafty” lining up with a ten-bus load tour of the country. At the Little Shanty pavillion on Line and 71st. It’ll be a southern/Louisiana fair. Planning a commercial arts center to link art and business together; existing artists will recieve instruction on how to market and brand their work; property donations in progress--may be in Cedar Grove; working with ARTnews to put in 25 local artists who have to have their own web sites to increase exposure of local artists and connect them to ecommerce web sites. Caroline may know of other sites.

It was suggested that ABS have a meeting at Little Shanty someday. Cynthia asked and Robert said we could talk about it for sure.

The model of the convention center would work for the Makers Fair for how people might reserve tables and pay for them in advance. That said, the digital divide is prevelant.

John Grindley has invited us to come down and have meetings at Cohabitat.

So next meeting at Cohab! Would be the 29th. Won’t have meeting next Monday due to Thanksgiving break.

Because of faculty meetings, Loren is considering polling the email list about moving meetings to a different night. (Not Thursday, people say; others say Monday is best.)

GROUP CONVINCED DOG PARK SHOULD BE PUSHED FORWARD – People wonder, “what’s the hold-up?”

Cynthia is confused about the dog park. We wanted to put Tim Wachtel on the radio as the SPAR planner. One woman who has a fundraising degree contacted Tim about how to help with the dog park. Tim said it was on hold due to funding and site selection. But Cynthia had just heard that we were green light on the dog park and that it would be at Hammel’s Park. Shelly had told Cynthia that she’d like to have all the amenities there that they now have at Veteran’s Park; it would be something the city would be proud to have. The Mayor has told Cynthia that she will not have to wait forever. But she hasn’t heard from him since writing him just today. Cynthia talked to one influential person who said the Mayor rules but also Tim Wachtel knows what he’s talking about. No clear if the city council votes on this. Steph said we should get the city council to author it, then only 4 people have to vote for it. Jenkins is the new councilperson in that district. He might be hesitant but it would be a feather to bring the first one to the city.

It was agreed that we should set up a meeting with Jenkins. Should be a focused meeting. 5:15 at Cohab the Monday we meet at Cohab.

Cynthia reported that Liz Swain wants to do a downtown homes tour and also wants to take people through buildings.

Cynthia described how homeless people get in the Johnson building through a certain way. Liz agrees that we need to save those buildings.

Next meeting is Monday the 29th. For the first time, we’ll meeting downtown at Cohabitat! 6:00-7:00, as usual.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sankofa Announces Urban Agriculture Job Training Program!

Now here's an idea for a better Shreveport, and a better world! Better, that is, through more fulfilling work, healthier and tastier food, and a more entering into a more symbiotic relationship with one's natural--and social--environments. That's what you get when you take community gardening seriously, and it becomes urban agriculture.

And that's what Leia Lewis Henderson and Chappelle Henderson of Sankofa are doing, with support from Caddo Parish and community partners. It's started to happen in New York and California, among other places in our country, not to mention India and Thailand. The real success story is Cuba (pictured here), where citizens are not only eating better and healthier than they previously, but they're earning more money as well.

The plan of Sankofa's "Green Circles" program is to offer people who are low income or unemployed the opportunity to receive a $150 stipend while they are trained in a urban agriculture techniques. That could be empowering for those individuals, and tasty for the rest of us. Can you picture a daily farmer's market in Shreveport someday? (Don't laugh, they've already got it in Monroe!)

The public information meeting for the Green Circles program will be:
Monday, November 29, 2010
6:30-8:00 PM
Wallette Branch Library
363 Hearne Ave.

Spread the word!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Montessori School for Shreveport: Coates Bluff Nature Trail tour, plus gardens, bees, recycling on Sat, Nov 13, 9 to 11:30 am

MSS Outdoor Ed
Originally uploaded by trudeau
"The one-half mile Coates Bluff Nature Trail will be open as part of the Montessori School for Shreveport's Outdoor Education event," says Jon Soul. "Students will begin using this trail daily as part of their outdoor education at our school. The plan is to extend this trail to Magnet High School and work to gain access for Stoner Hill Elementary and Valencia Rec Center children as well."

Soul adds, "The ecological and historical significance of this magnificent area cannot be overstated. Already, A Better Shreveport and other community groups and individuals have played a critical part in reclaiming this urban treasure from years of neglect and abuse. Now you can come grab a trail map and key and enjoy."

Sat, Nov 13, 9 am - 11:30 am.
See a video with Jon Soul on the Coates Bluff Nature Trail.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Holiday Lights Ride, Makers Fair, Regular Farmers Market, Radio Shows on Community Gardening and Diversity Discussed at Last Meeting

In attendance: Robert Trudeau, Carolyn Manning, Kari Brownholland, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff


We discussed possibly having a Holiday Lights ride, touring lights a night by bike in a given neighborhood; maybe distributing fliers along a route that we choose to publicize telling them in advance.

People could submit nominations for lights; we could plan our route after the lights have gone up. Robert noted that in Austin there’s a three block area that’s intense. Broadmoor is very bikeable. Saturday night two weekends before Christmas. Maurice noted that to ride at night people can get cheap LED flashlights at any autoparts store to be seen and legal; he said they’re easily mounted with piece of old inner tube (which he showed us).

Maurice might not be able to lead the Christmas Light Ride, he’ll be out of town, but Carolyn and others can lead it; we all know Broadmoor. Kari said she could volunteer to greet the group with homemade cookies when we pass by her house. Loren said he could volunteer to cook gumbo at the end. The date was tentatively set at Saturday the 11th, meeting at the Gold Dome at 4:30, then heading down Alexander and coming back by 6:00 or 6:15 in time to have gumbo then go to the Centenary Chorale concert at 7:00, for any interested.


As we discussed neighborhoods, Robert mentioned that the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association perhaps ought to be coming to our meetings and building a laeison. Maurice said neighborhood associations tend to turn out in droves to oppose requests for permission to sell alcohol.

We noted that our members tend to be white, middle class, living in Broadmoor, Highlands, South Highland, or Downtown. We discussed west Shreveport neighborhoods and organizing rides there. Robert noted that Pamoja Arts Center the oldest black arts organization in Shreveport; that it’s good resource for shows, lessons, and drum circles; it’s on Linwood, just above Midway; Leia Lewis’ Sankofa Gardens is another notable organization. Both are places where there is an Afrocentric culture and could provide open doors into the west side of Shreveport. Very friendly and warm people and atmosphere there. Sankofa also includes one of Shreveport’s community gardens.


The group discussed the Makers Fair both this past and upcoming Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It was a great success and April Dahm deserves all the credit for organizing it. Loren said it would be nice to be able to standardize the organization of it so that it can become a regular event--perhaps quarterly. Feico suggested that Robert interviews with video and make a facebook video for the Makers Fair.


The group then turned to a discussion of the farmers market in Ruston. Arden and Kevin Kennedy used to live there and said it was a wonderful source of freshly picked produce that operates nearly every day of the week! Arden was curious as to why we didn’t have a similar market here and speculated if it was because our farm land is used differently in this part of the state. Maurice said it is mostly small scale gardeners and large-scale cash crops here. Ruston is in hill country and have intensive farming vs. extensive farming. In intensive farming you can’t handle acres of a vegetable crop. Feico noted that this area started with truck farms; people who sell produce to the cities; Italian and Greek families who started truck farming; they still have them.

Maurice also noted that one of the goals of community gardens is to have excess; people who might have much knowledge and skill and operating gardens and a sort of “urban farming” might some of the recent Mexican immigrants in town; many of them come from communities in Mexico that have markets based on local produce.


Feico suggested we invite Grace Peterson to our radio show. The question sits before us: what do we need to marshal labor and land to recreate what they have in Ruston?

Since the meeting, Carolyn and Loren decided to work to have this week’s radio show devoted to diversity. How can an awareness of diversity issues help us make a better Shreveport?

Before the meeting, Carolyn, Robert, and Loren decided to try having the show go a whole hour. We’ve already been given permission by the KSCL directory station manager Cazes Verbuis and faculty advisor Michael Laffey to do it. We always seem have more to talk about with our guests!

Next week, as always: discussion and organization on new projects and ideas, and updates on ongoing ones!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Old, vacant buildings, houses and, for some reason, movie theaters intrigue me. Left of the lives and businesses that once inhabited the dwellings are the memories that will live on forever. At the last ABS meeting, Jason Brown-new owner of one such dwelling on Texas Ave, shared findings of a demolished building in downtown, now a parking lot (sing it with me, "paved paradise and put up a parking lot"). Many memories are shared from that Nankings restaurant/building that once stood on Milam Street. Jason told of blocked off rooms that seemed to be "frozen in time" found in the upstairs portion of the building. There we no staircases that led to the rooms. Were they secret rooms? Hiding spaces? What was their original purpose? Jason spoke of archeologists digging in the ruins before cement covered up history that could date to a time before the building was even constructed, telltale signs of our past. What will future historians and archeologists find when we're gone? What was beyond that outdoor staircase that still remains on the side of the roads we travel in downtown and the surrounding areas? Whose memories are there? Somewhere there are old photos of such to be found, the faces may not be familiar in them, but they are an important voice of “what once was”. Our history is our future, preserve and protect!

Texas Ave and Shreveport Common: a visit with designer Gregory Free, with downtown Jason Brown and businessman Richard Sparke

A Better Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
By Loren Demerath.
In attendance: Loren Demerath, Robert Trudeau, Jason Brown, Gregory Free, Garrett Johnson, Cynthia Keith, Susan Fontaine, Carolyn Manning, Richard Spark, April Dahm, Caroine Majors, Stacye Palmer, Steph Pedro, Feico Kempff, Maurice Loridans, April Waren, David Nelson, Linda England.

The group discussed its wants and needs for Texas Ave., and downtown generally. It was noted that ABS members are people coming to ABS from other experiences, cities, etc, and have wanted to incorporate the best practices from elsewhere, yet as they best fit this area.


Gregory Free spoke of how SRAC's burning down provided the opportunity for a Shreveport Common and a new headquarters for SRAC that can be an asset to the city. There was a fear that the organization would never see its insurance money, or that it would be placed where ever there is vacent space; vs. where could it go that would help the city; the nature of the Central Fire Station provided the particular opportunity.

They looked at 12 sites over 2 days, not including the Fire Station; it was going to be the Fire Fighters Museum, but museums don’t have the same impact. Brian Crawford, the Fire Chief (great guy, says Gregory) helped a lot in making the transition.

Shreveport is well-organized, the arts located in that area naturally, with the Central Fire Station located centrally; there's been a lot of buy-in locally and early; Greg chatted with Mayor Glover about use for the station; the plan of SRAC helped funnel the available money; “where could it better help the city?” was a phrase the Mayor borrowed from Gregory. State Senator Lydia Jackson helped find funds; SRAC has found 2.5 million that’s been matched, with the Mayor’s help to leverage insurance money to match the grant. Out of 200 cities they chose 20, and Shreveport was one of them chosen by the Endowment for the Humanities. Now they’re all working as parts of teams, figuring out the roles of the partners along the way.

This is has to be a social, collective effort; it will look to the history of the city to give it depth and meaning; Greg is inspired by Dolores Hayden, “The Power of Places” to change our lives for the better; Kevin Lynch, J.B. Jackson, etc. to maximize the power of our city’s history and culture. The term Common comes from a meeting place, a shared public space, etc.


ABS has long talked about how downtown needs a grocery story and bookstore downtown. There's the old saw that retail follows rooftops, but it didn't across the river at the Boardwalk in Bossier; when a group of properties can be parcelled together and coordinated, things can happen.

As the group discussed perceptions of safety in downtown, it was noted that Ledbetter Heights is now emptier; Jason said that Sprague St. is no longer full of addicts and prostitutes; Jason has been working for the prosecutor’s office to help change it; he noted that now is the opportunity to make something of that area; he's been working on Snow St., and is near shutting down the Livingston Motel which is used predominantly for drugs and prostitution; once they seize the property, what to do with it? Options are to give it to non-profits, or more responsible developers.

It was noted that so many downtown properties are in adjudication; the core of the city should be valuable property; not festering with crime and danger; that’s why emminant domain is proper when its used in the interests of the city.

The group discussed the predicament of wanting to move crime out of valuable areas in the city on the one hand, to not wanting to isolate and ghettoize low income people on the other hand. Caroline was referred to Jason as having information on what proper mixed income can look like. (What's truly mixed income, by the way? Is a more realistic model to have a healthy balance of intra-neighborhood homogeneity and inter-neighborhood connectivity? -- Loren wondered aloud.)

Taxes are a concern for the impact of improvements and development in an area. There was fortuitous timing in Jason getting the Calanthian Temple just as Millennium Studios was beginning, but that would coincidence. The Calanthian will be a private building; limited commercial space; office space for an attorney, for example. Jason said that in seeing a vision for downtown and not wanting to go live on Ellerbe Road, etc., "apart from us here, everyone thinks we’re nuts." April disagreed, noting that when you talk to people about downtown they want to happen and see potential. Loren noted that people wanting an active downtown is practically universal; who doesn't like the French Quarter, Paris, Manhattan, or a big university campus, for that matter? Active pedestrian spaces are exciting and interesting.

In discussing downtown spaces, it was noted that the space adjacent to the Forum News is being abandoned, Jack Lamb, doesn’t care about refurbishing it necessarily. Richard Sparke said he would be willing to sell his space for the purpose of redevelopment, but not for having it torn down it for some supercenter; but others said there is a new culture that is emerging where people don’t want to ever go to another chain restaurant; and smaller scale groceries are becoming fashionable; Richard said that may just be Yankee culture that doesn’t belong here and wouldn’t work. Loren said that was debatable and trends would suggest the contrary.

It was noted that the Feist and the Jenkins families have properties downtown and are not doing anything with them; the Carruthers family also owns property downtown; Roland Toups bought 3 buildings downtown and destroyed them to have a parking lot; the property was more valuable to him that way. It was noted that these things could be similar to forcing I-49 into unhealthy areas for the city for private profit. When Loren spoke to Mayor Glover about that possibility and shared his perception that doing such a thing for that reason would be a sin, the Mayor immediately stuck out his hand and said, "Amen!"

But it was asked what’s there in ordinances to protect downtown from being devastated for private profit? The answer from planners Steph Pedro and Caroline Majors and others: precious little. It was noted that the zoning laws need to change and they’re looking for funding to do that. Linda England passed on the message to April Dahm that Jeff Everson wanted to know what TACA needs from him for funding for historical areas because Jeff knows his way around that funding. Stacye Palmer knows about the national historic areas and she said she might be able to help as well.

Jason said in New Orleans, there are organizations that have complete control over certain historic areas and that’s how those areas have been preserved; Caroline and Steph and Cynthia all noted there is a redevelopment authority for Shreveport that’s being proposed in the Masterplan; now it’s the city council, which means there is really no authority; Jason said he was there when they tore down the buildings for Toups, and they found perfectly preserved rooms to which there was no access!

Jason also talked about renovate properties and selling them at cost; and not just one property but several. You can coordinate and centralize control over renovation by giving seized properties to developers with a purpose. (Sounds like an idea!!)


April Waren spoke on her and Steph’s meeting with Kent Rogers and NLCOG; Southern will be cooperating with a shuttle service; Ken Rogers will be also be talking to Brian Parsons, the head of bicycle-pedestrian transportation for the DOTD of Louisiana. Kent is going to help seek funding for the bike-ped plan, and Brian has wanted to fund one. Go Kent! And be our hero, Brian!

Mr. Richard mentioned that the Oakland Cemetery group is in the process of trying to restore the cemetery; on the 7th they’ll have an event. They’ll eventually have to put in new family stones; they’ve had to identify the graves.

April Dahm reminded all that the Makers Fair is this and the next Saturday 10 to 4; Port Belly at 3; live music at other times, all at Texas Ave. and Common, across the street from the Central Fire Station, future home of SRAC, as discussed previously.

Jason noted that where the old SRAC space is the space is currently wasted. A real asset for the city, he said, could be a classically designed rugby field, usable for all sorts of small crowd football games as well. The rugby club in town has a lot of support, and is a long standing tradition in town, the longest running competitive sports club in shreveport. They're thinking about a roofed, bandstand style small stadium setting. Most high school crowds get swallowed up in stadiums that are much too big form them. This would be a community draw, fitting the scale of local events, and be right downtown!

The group will meet again next Monday, again from 6:00 to 7:00 in Centenary Square.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Highland Jazz & Blues Fest next week on Time for A Better Shreveport, 5 to 5:30 pm, on KSCL, 91.3 fm

Listen at 5 pm on Mondays to hear live chats with community leaders on the KSCL program Time for A Better Shreveport.

A recent guest was Maurice Loridans, a Shreveport attorney who commutes via bicycle. He has been pedaling to work and to most social appointments since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Loridans recommends, based on his daily riding:
- fenders
- riding as though you were a motorized vehicle
- bright lights, front and rear
- steady hydration
- planning your route with both traffic and elevation in mind.
- he also promised to respond to riders who want advice about strategies in smart bike commuting in Shreveport. That's

Nov 22 on KSCL: Huw & Corolyn Thomas, Cornwellians who are crossing the US on a tandem bicycle rig that includes a shelter box, will be overnighting in Shreveport and available for questions. Their trip is connected to the cause of International Disaster Relief. Please see

Next week: background on the Highland Jazz and Blues Fest from founder Amy Loe and also from one of the primo musicians performing at the fest.

Velo Dendro Shreveport, 2010: liesurely tour by some 75 riders across 15 miles of tree-lined East Shreveport streets

Over 75 riders pedaled a route that stretched for 15 miles across East Shreveport in the second annual Velo Dendro, a tour of significant trees.

Hallie Dozier, prof of forestry at LSUBR and former Shreveporter, led the tour. She was aided in the event planning by Matthew Linn and founder of Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets (BRASS) founder Mark Martin.

The route went from Columbia Cafe to Betty Virginia Park, where Shreveport Green's Donna Curtis and Chapellie Henderson presided over a tree planting. At the public gardens in front of First Baptist School the group looked at the crepe myrtles planted along Bayou Pierre. The route went across Broadmoor with stops at the Akers house to see the magnolia above and at AC Steere Park for a look at a champion sycamore.

The group pedaled past the river along Fant Parkway while taking care to avoid nests of tiny, tire-puncturing thorns in grassy areas.

Downtown, the path led to the great oaks surrounding the Courthouse.

In the grove beside Columbia Cafe riders enjoyed jambalaya and a discussion of plans for the next Velo Dendro, to be planned and coordinated by A Better Shreveport with tour founders Linn and Dozier.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bike-Ped Plan, "Gasland" Discussed at Last Meeting

In attendance: Loren Demerath, Kari Brownholland, Caroline Majors, Susan Fontaine, Garrett Johnson, Stephanie Pedro, Carolyn Manning, Maurice Loridans

The group discussed “Velo Dendro” tree tour organization; Carolyn volunteered to be the point person. We’ll start registering people at 8:00. Carolyn and Steph will write the press release. Trudeau knows the route, and Loren will call him and get him to distribute it in prose at least. [Turns out it was Matthew Linn who had it; he distributed it later in the week.] Ian volunteer to set up a bike tune-up tent to be used at the beginning of the tour at the registration area. [It was great to have it there! Really help with airing up tires! Thanks Ian!]

Decided to table the bylaws discussion and vote since Susan hadn’t had time to review them.


Caroline and Steph then talked about the bike-ped plan. They went through a detailed document outlining the tasks and timing of the various steps that would be taken along the way to producing a plan.

The goal is to get a bike plan at an affordable budget, and to do so, they have had to connect a lot of people and partners in different ways. The main goal is to get a list of projects that are time phased; they can then give the list to local governments and it will be their cook book; we can revisit it every few years and hold them accountable; it can also be used to identify funding sources; the plan will help market what each project can be and how to do them; it will save resources for governments because they can open the book and put it out to bid.

Caroline and Steph have already done a lot of the leg work in identifying partners; They’ve suggested we reach out to Bossier City to leverage their resources; to see if they want to be involved.

Need to identify capacity; depends on our partners and how much they want to contribute; could determine if it’s bike-ped or just bike.

Group discussed whether to privilege bike over ped; doesn’t have to be either or. But does need starting point. Bike seems more manageable; ped is smaller systems with smaller radiuses; can get more impact city wide.

But, as some ped concerns are simply paths, could fold in path projects from a team of people that we compose; it’s a pallette/buffet of opportunities; off-road trails can be easier to fold into it than crosswalks, etc.

We’ll assemble an advisory group to represent all interested parties. That group will decide the direction of the plan.

Could have a meet and greet session: here are the people who’ve said they’re enthusiastic about working on this and to help fund the plan. Any professionals involved would be paid by the funds we raise: planners, graphic designers, etc.
We would recruit from who we know who’d want to work on this. We’d get commitments from them for what they’d work on and references for any funding.

Once we’ve secured funding we can procede with the plan. We would research interests of different kinds of users/stakeholders. Might not have many formally organized groups out there now, but they might form as a result of this plan.

Would keep in the loop the committee updating them on what we’ve found are the needs and desires.

Then we find where are the issues and needs for investment. E.g., crash data that the police department has the data and NLCOG holds the data; would identify hotspots, such as schools, retails sites, etc.; as you start to layer the data you start to see a heat map of where the needs are. E.g., households without a motor vehicle identifies where people are and how they are under-served; gets at socio-demographic and socio-economic status variables.

Actual counts and street inventories and photos are some of the data that we’ll need to collect. We’ll then share our GIS analysis with the stakeholders.

Solution wise looking at these projects on a time table will help us leverage the plan with other monies and projects that are occurring.

After vetting our hotspots with the public we’ll look at how to meet those needs using best practices such as are taught at that designing for bikes course that Tim Wachtel sent out the other day and Steph has previously attended in New Orleans.

Can then have charettes by individual groups or one big one.

Every proposal is then analysed for how it will affect our hotspots.

The matrix digests all the criteria and makes it like a checklist of what’s being done, how it’s being funded, implementation of the plan has a timeline.

Interim tasks include those that ABS could do; ABS could serve as a big outreach mechanism for the plan; having events that publicize it; talking up the plan and what it can do.

It would take a period of time to complete this because it’s small cobbled together scale, but the interim tasks would help.

Political leaders need to see how it’s a good investment and will make money for Shreveport in the long run and/or that everyone just wants it.

Caroline said they wanted feedback and Garret says it’s amazing. Caroline and Steph feel like they could sell it.


Chris Jay spoke about a little film that’s going to be here next week, “Gasland”; HBO has purchased it and is showing it now. Many people in town do not want it to be shown. It’s about a town getting caught up in a gold rush over natural gas just like we are. Will be free next Monday in Kilpatrick at 7:30 for free. It’s a documentary on no budget.


Carolyn talked about sharings; Caigslist and freecycle is like it. Mandatory Craigslist could be something ABS could do. Steph couldn’t sell her couch in Shreveport; was the only good couch on craigslist. Took her two months to sell it; would’ve been gone in two or three days in New Orleans; within an hour she’d normally get calls on something she post when she was there.

Next Monday, architect Gregory Free, and members of TACA will be on hand to discuss the Texas Avenue area.