Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Coate Bluff Trail Planning Gets Strategic at Last ABS Meeting!

In attendance: Marion Marks, William Hartman, Nadine Charity, William Hartman, Wes Wyche, Cynthia Keith, Susan Keith, Jon Soul, Mike Renfroe, Lisa Shook, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath


Jon gave an update on the trail. The bayou is two to two and a half feet down below normal. Not all the grocery carts are out apparently. More trash needs to be taken out. Maurice and Jon have worked on the part of trail giving access from one area. The trail should be ready for use again after pruning back the poison ivy and dead fall in late October or early November. That said, Maurice was surprised at how easily he rode up the trail on a mountain bike from Montessori all the way to the point until where the big tree lies across the tail.

Maurice also rode from the Cat Hospital in the concrete culvert all the way to Alexander, only having to go up out of the culvert behind just before the bridge because of leaking pipes. He also noted he was able to ride up and out of the culvert by going diagonally up the slope, and that the mountain bike tires were likely critical for that maneuver.

Jon noted the 200 yards north of Sevier St. is where the trash box is and that’s where the outdoor classroom will be for up to 45 students. Lisa and Jon have drawn it up and priced it out. There will be an area for small groups and an amphitheater area for larger groups. The materials would be wooden boards with nuts and bolts.

Steph summarized how this is the 4th Coates Bluff meeting of the summer and the strategic plan posted on the blog summarizes where we want to go, what we’ve done, and how we can measure our success. So far we’ve put in at $20,000-$30,000 of work in kind so far. Steph and Maurice and Loren have all talked to different organizations about how to tackle liability and ownership issues. Steph has talked with the Trust for Public Land, who suggested a memorandum of understanding with the land owners. That will be at the beginning of the current strategic plan. There’s a conservation easement handbook that Feico already has and they’ve used those techniques already for Bickham Dickson. We also want to replenish with human activity there with educational and recreational activities. Steph went over the other aspects of the trail. The plan also calls for a physical plan, a survey of the easement, and then a plan of the details of where the path will be, entrances, signage, etc.

Maurice and Wes discussed with the group the M.O.U., as suggested by the Trust for Public Land.

It was noted that the ultimate goal is for the trail to go all the way to Stoner, and perhaps with a trail going down to where the bike path crosses underneath the parkway by the apartments.

Marion mentioned that Charlie Coyle with Coyle Engineering might be good to do some of the work and he can get a quote from him. Other designers could participate to. It was also noted that the firm formally MHSM has already contributed a lot to the project.

Steph went over the history of the trail and and how incorporating some of the details of the past into the strategic plan will be done, e.g., the 14 tons of trash that have been taken out total over the past six years. We have a verbal M.O.U. via Mike Strong and Wes is now our city contact. We also have a partnership with the Red River Wildlife Refuge to build the outdoor classroom and clear out tallow trees, an invasive species. We’ve also made an institutional partner with the President of Centenary, our fourth institutional partner. With this strategic plan we can now apply for grants.

The future tasks we’ve identified are partnering with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Mike Renfroe said he’ll contact them. The cemetery is being eroded with the stormwater runoff and NRCS might be able to help us. The state wildlife and fisheries will also be a contact and Mike will contact them too. Signage is another task; either with Bill Day or resources from Ed Leuck whom Loren talked to that day about costs (about $150 for about 100 signs)

Feico has talked to the Calhoun family who is paying taxes on the cemetery and would like to sell it. We need a legal entity that has legal standing. It was noted that the M.O.U. is a good half step because we get all the signatures on a single document. We’ll also be getting wood duck boxes, and Mike will get those; Maurice and Mike both knew of a man in Minden who builds them, Bob Kimble. Michael will also contact the wild turkey federation. Marion mentioned the Nature Conservancy as well. Feico has talked to them and they say one needs a war trust and a full time staff for contacts. Paul Dickson is a good person to work on this Marion noted.

A project manager to be the foreman and contact person on this is needed. Loren will try to find a Centenary College student for that role. Robert Trudeau and Marion’s wife have agreed to be the liaisons for Magnet High.

Mike mentioned that the State Historic Preservation Office could assist. Jeff Girrard has already had it designated as a state archaeological site, so it’s registered with the state. The Preservation Office may then feel obliged to help prevent the erosion from further damaging the cemetery.

Steph talked about the success metrics, including the water quality, the increased wildlife species, the increased human use, etc.

Feico said he’s always had the vision of Valencia Park being the base for the trail because of the parking there and the potential to have an interpretive center there. SPAR has talked about expanding their recreation center there. It would be natural to incorporate the visitors center in that.

Mike mentioned that those are huge figures of hours of time and tons of trash that we’d mentioned. The people looking at the grants are going to want to know the time and dates that its been done. Susan mentioned that she’d done work on it back beginning in 1986.

Mike said he probably wouldn’t have trouble making the lookout pier and that’s a considerable amount of money, so thinking about people who volunteer time to help build it would help. Where it will be built is not actually city property so we’ll have to have some insurance for it, though it probably wouldn’t be a problem getting money for the pier, if we have the insurance. It would be better to have an M.O.U. for it before we build it. Susan mentioned the State Trails Grant has been mentioned to her several time. Feico wondered how the Cypress Black Bayou Recreational Area was handled.

For fundraising, Marion said this project screams for a kickstarter project, an internet driven community fundraising approach. The band, “Dirtfoot,” for example, raised a lot of money for an album in a short period simply be using kickstarter.

Mike asked who would sign it for the city, and Wes said it would go to the City Council. How would liability be handled? There are strong immunity statutes in place, said Maurice, and if the land is for recreational use you’re immune from being sued. It has to be something that was constructed with willful negligence, like a trap, intentionally trying to hurt someone. Building a pier doesn’t constitute that. If Community Renewal lets us build a pier on their property going into the bayou, then we don’t need liability, because they already have insurance.

Maurice and Feico will try to go ahead and draft the M.O.U. Hopefully they can use something already in place like the Bickham Dickson agreement.

For the Calhoun heirs, it was noted that if they’re looking for a tax break then a conservation easement would be the best way to go.

Jon mentioned that we’ve had strong support from people that live along the bayou. But if we’re building a pier, we should have something in place that allows community participation in that decision and design. After we have something to show in the form of illustrations of the pier and amphitheater we can meet again.

No comments on the minutes from last meeting.

Monday, September 12th will be the next Coates Bluff meeting. We’ll have the MOU drafted for approval at this meeting. Can post it on our blog, people can review it, ideally we could meet with neighbors, and as soon as we’re the city can review it.

William complemented Steph on the blog revisions (and others concurred!)

The group adjourned at 7:28.

It looks like next week’s meeting will be focus on Dog Park Fundraising, fundraising in general, and transportation improvements.

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