Monday, April 23, 2012

Group discusses local events, future Coates Bluff planning and funding, local advocacy, and more at 4/16 meeting

In attendance: Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Maurice Loridans, Katherine Brandl, Loren Demerath, Elizabeth Rosselli, John 

Weekend Events
The group began by discussing local events happening next weekend. Chimp Haven is having an event Saturday, April 21 where the Dog Park Alliance will be represented. There will be two workdays on the Coates Bluff trail system this weekend. The group expressed concerns that Jon’s Saturday cleanup would tax the potential volunteers for Sunday’s trail clearing, but some thought Jon would draw his volunteers from elsewhere. The group will ask Jon if he needs additional help, but the Sunday afternoon work session stays at its scheduled time for now. In addition to these activities, there will be an Afro-centric childcare program on Sunday.
The group talked about the goals for Sunday. The parallel bike trail portion must be cleared while the weather cooperates. Centenary’s Math Department cut the trail from Valencia Park to the clearing several weeks ago, but this week the volunteers will clear the Clyde Fant portion of the trail. Some expressed concerns about the ability to find the clearing portion of the trail after a few months, but Katherine believes users will easily find the trail because much of it runs along an old road. The group hopes that the trail will connect to the tunnel under Clyde Fant after. The group estimates that this trail will be 1 ½ mile long when finished. 

Future Coates Bluff goals 
The group planned for the completion of the mountain biking trail. Maurice explained the layout of this new trail would begin at the culver at the top of the loop, from which one can see the River Oaks neighborhood. The group mentioned the possibility of handing over the trail to the local mountain bike riders, so riders obtain the desired narrow single track trail. John explained the 100 Miles to Nowhere event as an option to finish the mountain biking trail. These Livestrong-sponsored charity events have participants ride a small course for 100 miles; such an event could be used by bikers to set the course of the new trail.  John said he would discuss this idea with Ian.

Example of a 100 Miles to Nowhere course in Manasses, VA
The group wants to requisition the surrounding terrain to enhance users’ trail experience. The group also talked about requisitioning an old car sitting along the trail; the possibility of building a bridge over the car rather than removing it was mentioned. Concerns about the challenges logs in the nature trail’s path were presented, but Maurice stated that a couple logs, especially near the beginning and end of the trail, prevent 4-wheelers from requisitioning the trail. On the bike path, Maurice suggested that planning a few narrow passes between trees would discourage 4-wheeler usage.

Because of upcoming deadlines for the group’s grants, funding matters were discussed. Loren spoke with a representative from Senator Landrieu’s Washington, D.C. office about local trail possibilities. Landrieu is interested in funding for Louisiana waterways, but budget cuts made the office suggest agencies and grants for funding. The Landrieu office suggested private funding options.
The group debated a potential marketing pitch Loren created to entice Wal-mart’s corporate sponsorship of trails. The company could give private funds to match public, government funding. Wal-mart is close to the trails, and many shoppers do not have cars. Though Wal-mart is promoting a greener image, the company will likely turn the proposal down, but pitching the idea cannot hurt. Others suggested that Wal-mart place bike racks at their stores, while others preferred using the Garden Center’s railing.

Events from last week brought discussion of the group’s advocacy goals and objectives. Maurice left the Makers Fair last weekend to attend Frances Kelly’s spring training event for the Occupy movement at the Highland Community Center. Unions and teachers were the most widely represented groups at the meeting. The attendees have picked an issue to protest at one local politician’s office. Interested individuals can contact Valerie Loridans for further details.
One strength of local organizing is that individuals have common goals but want to accomplish them in different ways. One such issue, the closure of public libraries, is becoming a national trend. The group is proud that ABS does things positively and does not go negative in their tactics. If the group needs volunteers, it can network and build loose alliances when it needs to. Loren suggested encouraged citizen-activists, and several members reiterated that just being around often helps get things done. Finally, the group wishes to remind citizens that the vote for the new member of the Metropolitan Planning Commission is May 3. One of the group’s own is running and would like our support in his quest to implement the Master Plan.