Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jefferson Parish Recreation Path completed 10 miles from Kenner to Bucktown

February 27, 2014.  The construction fences are gone from the bridge at the Bonnabel pumping station outfall canal along the Lake Pontchartrain bike path.  The path now flows unvexed 10 miles through Jefferson Parish from the St. Charles parish line to the Orleans Parish line.
The paved path in Jefferson Parish running between the levee and Lake Pontchartrain used by bicyclists, runners, joggers, walkers and skaters is now complete from the West Return Floodwall in Kenner to the 17th Street Canal In Metairie, a distance of about 10 miles, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District press release posted February 21, 2014.
         Known to the Corp as the All Weather Access Road (AWAR), the completion of the road/path is part of the Corps' $14.5 billion Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS).
       At the West Return Floodwall (there is a canal on the other side) the road/path extends another 2.5 miles along the floodwall from Lake Pontchartrain to just before I-10.
       This means that for the first time since a recreation path for the Jefferson Parish Lakefront was proposed nearly 40 years ago it is possible to ride a bicycle or walk or run the length of the lakefront without having to detour or lose sight of the lake.
       All the sections of the path and the bridges across the discharge basins have been open before but it seemed like never at the same time.  The path was first constructed in the early 1980's; complete from Kenner to the 17th Street Canal but without any of the four bridges crossing the discharge basins.  This forced path users to detour onto nearby residential streets to complete any trip of more than a few miles.
       By the time bridges were built over the discharge basins, numerous "levee lifts" and pumping station upgrades were closing parts of the trail, sometimes for long periods.  By the time these construction projects were completed sections of the path had deteriorated to the point they were no longer usable.
         Now path users can get on the path and complete a one-way trip of about 12.5 miles without having leave the road/path.  There are asphalt ramps at several locations providing access to the path from adjacent subdivisions but public parking is available only at the Bucktown Marina, the eastern terminus of the path, the Bonnabel boat launch, and at Laketown in Kenner at the north end of Williams Blvd, near the Treasure Chest Casino.  There are restrooms and a drinking fountain at Laketown and a concession stand open Wed.-Sun.
       The release from the Corps goes on to say that the road was built to allow access to the lake side of the levee for inspections and maintenance by the East Jefferson Levee District and the Corps of Engineers.  The East Jefferson Levee District allows the AWAR to be used for recreational purposes but all recreational users of the AWAR must yield to parish, state and Corps vehicles in addition to emergency vehicles.
       The Jefferson path no longer connects with Orleans Parish.  Before Hurricane Katrina, a pedestrian bridge crossed the 17th Street Canal but that whole area has radically changed since the storm with the instillation of a huge pumping station and a harbor too.  Bicycling west on Robert E. Lee Blvd. west of Pontchartrain Blvd is perilous as the four-lane is curbed and has no shoulders west of Pontchartrain Blvd and carries lots of traffic.  A paved path along the Jefferson Parish side of the 17th St. canal between Veterans Blvd. and Old Hammond Highway does not connect to anything in Orleans Parish.  The safest way to access the Lake Pontchartrain path if you do not live near it is to drive to one of the three parking areas.

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