COATES BLUFF PROTECTION/CONSERVATION/
The Coates Bluff Nature Trail’s mission is aimed at full preservation of existing species, conservation through easement, and replenishment of nature and human recreation activity. This trail provides public access to a unique natural resource inside the city of Shreveport, Louisiana. As an undeveloped 1.5 mile stretch of land in a historic neighborhood, the area along the proposed Coates Bluff Nature Trail currently provides valuable habitat in the midst of an urban environment, and it includes a neglected waterway flowing into the Red River. This trail has potential to connect multiple educational institutions, historical sites, and environmental treasures. ABetterShreveport.org would like to pursue 1) a conservation easement, 2) a schematic design, 3) a land survey of the future walking path and bicycle path, and 4) a development design for the Coates Bluff Nature Trail.
The conservation easement will bring together the property owners and a land and a strategy for long-term governance/maintenance of the surrounding land. The group will work with a land conservation nonprofit, such as The Trust for Public Land (TPL), to conserve the land for people to indefinitely use Coates Bluff as a nature walking trail, and bike path, while protecting the indigenous species that exist. The Trust for Public Land will provide help with structuring, negotiating, and completing land transactions that will forever protect Coates Bluff. TPL also provides expertise in tax benefits, appraisals, title issues, property surveys, and public agency procedures.
Work to date includes a conceptual map of the walking trail and multi-use path, and illustrates its relationship to the Red River Trail, the future Riverscape Mixed Use Development, the existing three schools, the Hopewell Cemetery, Centenary College, and the adjacent historic neighborhood, Stoner Hills. The Coates Bluff stakeholders have discussed in detail these elements in a series of three public meetings. Illustrations are still needed to help visualize the conceptual map on the ground, and arrive at a clearly defined, feasible concept.
The development design will develop more detailed drawings that will utilize the measurements from the survey to show the correct path length and width, materials, and path elements such as signage, etc.
Accomplishments To Date [in-kind ($20,000 (estimate))]
Fall 2005 – Jon Soul’s children began attending The Montessori School for Shreveport (MSS); Jon took notice of Anderson Bayou and lots of dumping.
Fall 2008 – Jon Soul began teaching in the MSS middle school; began exploring bayou & adjacent sewer easement/maintenance road with students.
Spring 2009 -- Organized a large community cleanup of the bayou.
Fall 2009 -- Started Outdoor Education Program at MSS; began using 1/2 mile "nature loop" with all ages at MSS.
Winter 2009 -- Met with Mike Strong to receive permission to continue using trail -- verbal permission and support granted.
Winter 2009 -- Established foot trail with ABetterShreveport (ABS) extending trail to Magnet High School.
Spring 2010 -- SPAR installed gate in southeast corner of Valencia Park for Magnet and Valencia Rec Center students.
Spring 2010 -- 2nd community cleanup of trail from MSS to Valencia Park.
Fall 2010 -- Invited the manager at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge to come give advice on invasive species control along the trail (specifically Chinese Tallow); he brought Mike Renfro, a private land biologist with the FWS; both were very impressed.
Spring 2011 -- Magnet students began using the trail with teacher Robert Trudeau; Valencia Rec Center began using trail during "Winter Camp."
Spring 2011 -- 3rd annual cleanup: "Hopewell Cemetery Cleanup & Watershed Protection."
Spring 2011 -- EB Williams Stoner Hill Elementary installed gate on fence line in order to access trail; 5th graders used trail for first time.
Spring 2011 -- ABS assumed role of strategic planner for Coates Bluff development; Centenary College hosted 1st Coates Bluff community meeting - David Rowe, Centenary's president presides; working groups formed (ex. education).
Summer 2011 -- 2nd & 3rd Coates Bluff community meeting(s): mapping and conceptual design alternatives for the trail to help stakeholders come to consensus on values, programming, and use of the space. Outlined a clear set of values, brainstormed programmatic needs, and built a volunteer base. Discussed activities, fundraising, and governance/maintenance options.
July 28, 2011 -- ABS met with FWS; FWS is ready to secure funding for the trail and provide guidance in best management practices.
Aug 15, 2011 -- 4th ABS Coates Bluff meeting: Present concept design and proposal to stakeholders for review.
Work Groups1. Education and Curriculum Development. Jeanne, Robert, Deborah and Jon
2. Transportation Connectivity Loren, Maurice, Donna, Tim and Stephen
3. History Archeology− (Need to recruit working group leaders)
4. Nature−John Davenport, Jon Soul
5. Physical Planning/Governance/
6. Outreach/Marketing−Nadine, Kelly and Michael (Bring artists to interpretive event)
7. Funding-Marion Marks
Through a series of clean-ups and hikes, the community has discovered a neglected urban open space with great potential for supporting wildlife and providing outdoor education. However, these activities have also uncovered debris and erosion concerns where stormwater runoff is being channeled through the site toward the Red River. Trash dumping and neglect pose threats to this undeveloped space, and fragmented land ownership leaves the area vulnerable, as development closes in. Therefore, the objectives for the Coates Bluff Nature Trail are to increase community and educational access to nature, protect the land and its habitats from encroaching development, restructure stormwater management, and increase community understanding of the value of the property, in order to eliminate erosion, mitigate pollution, and prevent further dumping on the site.
Conservation goals for Coates Bluff Nature Trail include improved water quality, habitat protection, and habitat restoration. The site for the project is a bottomland hardwood swamp, and it is part of the proposed Red River Important Bird Area. Wildlife identified in the area include the Great Blue Heron, White Egret, Cormorant, Mallard, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Marbled Salamander, Fowler’s Toad, Pickerel Frog, Green Treefrog, Three-toed Box Turtle, Red-eared Slider, Green Anole, Five-lined Skink, Eastern Ribbon Snake, Western Cottonmouth, Red and Gray Fox, Armadillo, Northern Raccoon, Fox and Gray Squirrel, Striped Skunk, Nutria, American Beaver, Virginia Opossum, Swamp Rabbit, Mourning Dove, American Kestrel, Kingfisher, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Mississippi Kite.
This project will also yield new environmental curricula, developed by a collaborative partnership of institutions who would like to use the trail for outdoor education. Through the Coates Bluff Nature Trail, diverse groups of students and community members will have opportunities to connect to nature in new ways, and will work together to clean, cultivate, and enhance our local environment.
Future Tasks Identified1. Partner with NRCS for watershed work for erosion control near Hopewell Cemetery. 2. Partner with State Wildlife and Fisheries in Minden for acquatic education and training. 3. Partner with Bill Bay and Boy Scouts for interpretive signage project. 4. Fund and Build Lookout Pier 5. Fund and Elevate Trail near Magnet 6. Install bluebird boxes (F&WS) 7. Have a conference call with TPL and Michael (F&WS) 8. Contact National Wild Turkey Federation 9. Contact Fish America Foundation 10. Find Project Manager from Centenary 11. Build 30-seat benches (F&WS) 12. Tallow Control (F&WS) 13. Stencil stormdrains through National Geographic Grant
14. Hold outdoor art exhibit in October on Trail
Indicators of success for this planning effort include the following:
- clear consensus on the values, programming, and use of the proposed trail, as described in a conceptual design plan
- a total number of acres protected through the governance and maintenance strategy
- a reduced amount of trash collected during regular maintenance
- improved water quality evaluated through standard testing procedures
- increased number of wildlife species sighted
- increased student/public use of trail for educational purposes.