Monday, February 10, 2014

ABS Celebrates Dog Park, and Frets Over Coates Bluff by Magnet at Last Meeting

In attendance: Dione Procell, Loren Demerath, Lydia McClanahan, Cynthia Keith, Brian Salvatore, Lani Duke, Maurice Loridans, Stephen Pederson, Jon Soul, Susan Keith

In small talk at the beginning of the meeting, Brian Salvatore noted that he’s discovered that 1906 N. Market, which used to be a Holiday Inn where Sam Cooke was inspired to write “A Change is Gonna Come,” after he and his friends were denied rooms there because they were black.

Cynthia was happy to report that Mayor Glover did sign last next week to move the dog park ahead; the Red River Waterway Commission, and the Shreveport Dog Park Alliance were the other signatories.  After a cooperative resolution had been passed the site was shifted to Stoner Park.  The Dog Park Alliance is donating $28,000 which they’ve fundraised through dog washes, silent auctions, puptual nuptuals, etc., which will be put towards the design, planning, engineering and construction of the park.  It’s gonna happen y’all!  Won’t those playing pups be happy!

The main topic of that night (expected to be at tonight’s meeting as well), Dione Procell, (teacher of World History, Psychology and Sociology at Magnet) presented to the group on a proposal to reenvision Tract F of the Riverscape Development, including the possibility of saving the Coates Bluff Extension Plan.

Her colleagues at the meeting were Amanda Bertrand, mother of a senior at Magnet, and former PTA President, and Lydia McClanahan, a retired landscape architect for the city and MPC.

Dione spoke on how she had recently explored the forest on the other side of the bluff from Magnet High School where she now teaches.  She said discovering not only the beauty, despite the trash, but the history as well, was a revelation.  She got angry about the trash and had talked to Jon Soul about it, who recounted how he first felt and how he’d call Loren late at night and vent, and how he’s since founded Bayou to Bay and worked with ABS and others to create the trail.  

Dione showed Riverscape’s Plan and how Tract F--which is the section which goes north to south just behind Magnet and below a steep bluff is a forested pond, beautifully secluded.

A dotted line going through Riverscape’s plan shows the easement which they can’t build upon, and over which they have shown a meridian.  Maurice has read the legal document that covers the easement over the sewer line and says they can’t build over it.

Another Magnet teacher, Ginger Marks, called Oliver Jenkins about the burning, but it seemed to continue.  

Loren recounted how some years ago, when the plan first came out, he and Sharron Swanson, and Feico Kempff met with David Alexander to ask about the possibility of allowing the easement to be used for a trail.  The meeting ended with Mr. Alexander saying it was a possibility and that he would have to consult with the investors in the development, but we hadn’t heard anything about it since then.

Lydia asked if mightn’t it behoove the group to reapproach David Alexander.  She pointed out that those are deep lots along the back, bordering on that bayou.  Dionne said there were many, many ducks there, so it could be a wetlands issue.  Feico pointed out that developers can get credit for doing something to preserve wetland areas.  Dione heard from the U.L. Coleman company that she needed to talk to Debbie Hicks about it, but hasn’t been able to reach her yet.  Loren noted that Cole Guthrie spoke to the group about Coates Bluff apartments at one point a year ago or so.  Coleman may have bought the property behind Magnet on Tract F from Riverscape.  The concern of the group is that they’re now bulldozing it, and may be hurting the natural beauty that’s developed there.

Dionne is wondering if we can get somewhere by talking about this, or if there’s even a point to trying to make a trail or cleaning up the trash if developers are going to bulldoze it all.

It was noted that if any ABS members have contacts with Sequoia Construction, such as with Devid Pettiette, Cole Guthrie, Dennis Procell, Debbie Hicks, we could find out what the plan is.  Feico said, what they’ll want to know is what we want from them.  It was noted that we know what we want: a path to connect from Montessori School end to the Veteran’s Park end; it’s only the stretch directly behind Valencia Park and Magnet where there’s not a path yet, so we almost have a complete connecting trail.

Dione showed pictures of the area below Magnet, noted what a great outdoor education resource it is; it’s so close to Magnet with art, science, and nature lab possibilities, and is already being used by Montessori and Stoner Lab Elementary Schools.  There’s lots of trash in certain places right behind Magnet, and to clean it would be a massive undertaking on the scale of Jon’s Anderson Bayou Cleanups.  

When Feico asked what cashe is the concept of “outdoor classroom,” Loren noted it’s rising, particularly noting the success of people like Jon Soul, Outdoor Education Director at Montessori, at many sites around the country.  Amanda said it has great potential for grant writing whenever you can connect something to the classroom.

Amanda said we’re missing at Magnet a sense of neighborhood because so many students drive there.  Magnet’s contributing to the trail would help tie it into Valencia Community Center, and to the other schools in the area that also use the trail.

A year ago, ABS had tossed around the idea of getting Centenary to be the recipient of a conservation easement.  Maurice had wanted this to be more of a guerilla group that makes trails and if one doesn’t get used it’ll grow back and maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  Maurice thinks the connecting link to the bike trail going to the east may be in doubt if it doesn’t get enough use.

The group agreed the Coates Bluff trail with it’s bayous and forest used as educational resources, alternative transportation link, is an important community resource worth trying to preserve.  Next week’s meeting is relative open for agenda items, so we can feature this one again.  Loren offered the meeting as site Dionne could offer to meet with David Alexander.

In the week since then, Dionne has set up a meeting with David Alexander for this Wednesday.  We’ll meet tonight to talk about what that meeting might offer, and other options that are before us for the area’s preservation.  Join us!

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