Monday, April 23, 2012

ABS discussed plans for the future of the Coates Bluff trail system at the last meeting (April 2).

In attendance: Ken Hawkins, Loren Demerath, Caroline Major, Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Elizabeth Rosselli, Garrett Johnson, and Susan Fontaine.

The group began by handling past business and discussing last week's events. As part of the group's continuing fundraising efforts, Loren promised to scan the IRS nonprofit letter for PayPal. This should enable PayPal fundraising soon. The group also discussed last Monday's TEDx talk at BPCC, which took the place of the regular meeting. The event showed the best of the past year's events, as well as some local speakers. Many did not attend, stating they were unaware of the event until afterwards. The group might need better communication with organizers.

Loren told the group about last activity on the Coates Bluff Trail last Saturday. As part of Centenary's Big Event, twenty-four students and faculty helped clear the trail. One team of five students went from Valencia along a grassy patch of the pipeline right-of-way. This patch consists of a 100-300 foot stretch north of Montessori, but concerns about its maintenance were raised. The possibility of Centenary consistently mowing was raised, but Maurice believes an open-air trail will require frequent maintenance. Caroline said regular heavy usage should keep inhibit excessive grass heights. These trail maintenance issues could be minimized by altering the trail to pass through the woods instead, and the wooded design would protect against extreme summer heat.

Some raised concerns about the legality of the alteration because the wooded areas are privately owned. The group's legal minds explained how issues of trespassing could be circumvented by of the rights of passage and servitude. Louisiana legal code encourages the usage of private, not government, lands that lack posted signage. The group could establish a trail with well-documented public usage, i.e. access to Veterans' Hospital. After ten years the property owners cannot stop public usage anymore. In the event Riverscape is developed, the trail may be rerouted, but the trails would still be provided. This issue should be explored further in future meetings.

In addition to the above mentioned segment of trail, the group discussed an additional trail parallel to the current Nature Trail. As part of Centenary's Big Event, various crews began clearing a parallel trail for mountain bikers. The idea of a rake & ride solution for trail layout would enable the riders to obtain a desirable system. Maurice pointed out that BMX riders would create unnecessary turns to build challenges, so rack and ride might present future problems.
As part of continuing discussions of the trails system, conversations shifted to the grants. The lack of progress with the grant money from the parish and Wildlife is seen because of the term "conservation easement" in the grants' language. The group is awaiting the parish's call about the grant money, so we will know how to proceed. The group also looked beyond local governmental organizations for support, and several organizations were pitched as possible partners for the maintenance and expansion of the trails. The group never received definitive rejection from the national offices of the Nature Conservancy, so the Louisiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy should be spoken to.

Ducks Unlimited seems a good potential partner for the group's projects. Ducks Unlimited is probably the largest conservancy in the country, working on wetlands. The placement of wooden ducks and sorghum would prevent duck hunting on the group's trails. Ken showed a map of all Ducks Unlimited projects in Louisiana. Ducks Unlimited already has one 900-acre project restoring Bayou Pierre in Red River Parish. Ducks Unlimited has spent on average $5 million per year on Louisiana projects over the last five years.

Jon's ideas for the local waterways were transmitted to the group. These canals run throughout the state, and the availability of canoe rentals could encourage tourism. The new route for 3132 presents a problem for Bayou Pierre's future. The proposed new route would wreck Bayou Pierre but will never get done because of the property's value. The push for the 3132 completion arises out of the inability to access businesses along the Port. Caroline believes the Port is a valuable asset for Shreveport, but businesses do not locate in Shreveport because semi-trucks and roads infrastructure.

The meeting concluded with the group talking about outreaching to surrounding communities and organizations that want to create trails. The progress on Coates Bluff stands a potential model for other interested parties to begin trails projects. The group could help these parties establish trails if they were open to the public and the system of interconnected trails throughout the region would be closer to fruition. The group expressed the possibility of scheduling a work day before spring is over.

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