Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Urban Marsh at Bayou St. John Dedicated



Two kayakers and a paddler standing on a paddleboard explore the new small urban marsh at the mouth of Bayou St. John.  Spoil dredged from the center of the bayou was used to create the marsh which was dedicated to the City of New Orleans in a brief ceremony October 14, 2014.

      A half-acre of marsh created from the spoil of a dredging operation at the mouth of Bayou St. John was dedicated to the people of the City of New Orleans Tuesday, October 14, 2014.  Speakers at the brief ceremony, held under bright blue skies, said the marsh offers new recreational and educational opportunities for that stretch of the historic bayou.  Before and after the ceremony, two kayakers and a paddler on a paddleboard explored the new marsh.
       The marsh is a project of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL).  Much of the work was done by volunteers.  Some of the materials for the project were donated.
       One speaker noted that the size of the small marsh, one-half acre, is about the area of Louisiana wetland lost every day to erosion.
       An educational program featuring the ecology of the marsh is under development and will be offered to area schools, officials with the LPBF announced.  Opportunities to kayak and fish in the area are enhanced by the building of the marsh, officials said.  The area is already popular with dog owners who like to run their animals off-leash along the shore.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Paddlecraft parade to be part of Bayou St. John urban marsh dedication 10/14/2014


Andy Baker and a volunteer plant marsh grass in the small marsh recently created at the mouth of Bayou St. John (New Orleans, LA).  The one-half acre wetland will be dedicated Tuesday, October 14, with a ceremony that includes a paddlecraft parade of canoes and kayaks in  the sheltered and calm mini-marsh. 
   
        The dedication ceremonies at a half-acre "urban"marsh recently created at the mouth of Bayou St. John in New Orleans will include a paddlecraft parade.  All paddlecraft-canoes, kayaks, paddleboats-are invited to the event, October 14, 2014.  Paddlers are encouraged to costume for the event.  Participants, with their boats, should arrive on site by 9 am.  The ceremony will begin at 10 am.  The weather is forecast to be sunny, cool and breezy.
      Parking is on the west side of the bayou along Beauregard Ave. just before the "Y" that leads under the Lakeshore Ave. bridge.  There is no parking lot.  Boats will have to be portaged up and over a steep levee.  At the bayou there is a little finger of firm sand extending into the water to launch from.
      Tiny, compared to what most people think of as a marsh, the little wetland between the Lakeshore Ave. bridge and the massive water control structure about 200 yards to the south is becoming an inviting habitat for visiting shore birds and a protected spawning ground for fish, said Andy Baker, a wetland biologist managing the project.  Baker said when he heard the Army Corps of Engineers was going to dredge the bayou's opening into Lake Pontchartrain he got the idea to use the dredged spoil to build the marsh.
       Baker, originally from Philadelphia, PA, is one of many millennials who came to New Orleans to help rebuild the city after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and decided to stay.  Saturday,  Baker, a coastal program scientist with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF), was sprucing up the mini-marsh, picking up litter and doing a little marsh grass planting with the aid of three volunteers.
        Standing bare-footed in about four inches of the bayou's surprisingly clear water, wielding a shovel, Baker punches a hole in the sand and shell marsh substrate for a volunteer to plant one of the last clumps of marsh grass he has brought to partially fill in a small bald with greenery. 
        "I think we are ready for the photo-op," he said, referring to the dedication ceremonies planned for Tuesday.
        To retain the dredged spoil, a three -foot wall using high-tech sandbags was built, almost all of it underwater.  Without the marsh that Baker and his volunteers created, the shores of the bayou would have remained just mud and sand; little benefit to creatures looking for a place to feed, nest and breed.
        Baker is seeking volunteers to join him the second Saturday of each month to pick up litter and maintain the urban marsh with additional plantings when necessary.  The work begins at 9 a.m. and goes until noon.  Work gloves, garbage bags and tools are provided but volunteers are expected to bring their own water and snacks.  After the work is done there may be an educational talk about local natural and cultural history.
         Contact Baker directly at (504) 836-2215 or email to wetland.biologist@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lafitte Greenway (New Orleans, LA) progress report

The Lafitte Corridor Bicycle and Pedestrian Path looking towards Broad St. from Jefferson Davis Parkway.  The path and surrounding park linking Mid-City with the French Quarter is set to be completed in the spring of 2015.  Residents and commuters are asked not to use the trail until it is officially opened.
  
       The Lafitte Greenway Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, now under construction through the neighborhoods of Treme and Mid-City will open on schedule in the spring of 2015.
        New Orleans Department of Public Works construction project manager Louis Haywood assured a small group attending a Lafitte Greenway Expo at the restored Carver Theatre in Treme recently, that the park and path, "will be open by Jazz Fest."
         Construction on the project began in March of 2014.
        The 2.6 mile asphalt path connects Basin Street bordering the French Quarter (New Orleans) with N. Alexander St. near N. Carrollton Ave. to the northwest.  The path is 12 feet wide and most of it straight as an arrow.  The project also includes new ball fields in Treme, grading and replanting of meadows, landscaping and tree planting.
       The end of the path at N. Alexander St. is about three blocks from the south entrance to City Park on City Park Ave.
       The trail will be lighted and open 24-hours.  Security arrangements for the park and trail, which will open in about six months, are being discussed, Haywood said.
       The trail intersects several four-lane streets.  Haywood said drivers approaching those crosswalks will be warned of crossing pedestrians and cyclists by a state-of-the-art flashing light warning system similar to the flashing lights on emergency and police vehicles.  Trail users activate the warning lights by pushing a button at the side of the trail.  The lights come on immediately after the button is pushed.  This system of warning lights debuted in Florida recently and were very effective in stopping automobile traffic, Haywood said.
       The crosswalks will be striped with white "zebra stripes" much larger than those seen at crosswalks in the city now.  Pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks.
       To facilitate traffic on the path which shares the right-of-way with St. Louis St. for a few blocks, St. Louis St. will become one-way lakebound from N. Carrollton Ave. to Soloman St.
       Residents and commuters must stay off the path until it is officially opened as it will be an active construction site until that day and is dangerous, trail officials said.  To keep sight-seers out, the pedestrian bridge at Lopez St has been closed.  It will be replaced with a new bridge when the path and park open, Haywood said.
       Plans for the Lafitte Corridor path call for it to be extended to Canal Blvd. in lower Lakeview.  However that half-mile or so of right-of-way is still an active railroad spur and not now available for path development.   
       Opening the path next spring should make the city's growing number of bicycle commuters happy.  New Orleans is ranked fifth in the nation in bicycle commuting, said Naomi Doerner, executive director of BikeEasy.org, a bicycle advocacy group in New Orleans.  In the years between 2010 and 2012 bicycle commuting in the city increased 200 percent, she told the group at the expo.
      For more information contact the Department of Public Works at (504) 658-8046 or by e-mail crobles@nola.gov.  Contact Friends of Lafitte Corridor at www.folc-nola.org.
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