West Baton Rouge Parish is adding 5 more miles of paved levee top from Bealieau Lane to Addis Lane for pedestrian use, bringing a vision together of trailways that interconnect throughout the parish.
The new trailway, which just began construction this week will connect to an existing 1-mile stretch of paved levee top at the Brusly Landing. The work is expected to be complete in three months, weather permitting.
The recent project was bid out at $895,000 with an 80 percent match from the Department of Transportation and Development.
The trail, known as the De Soto Trailway, is the first project in a series of trails throughout West Baton Rouge Parish that could potentially connect walkers, joggers and bicyclists to Addis, Brusly and Port Allen parks.
“We’re eating an elephant one bit a time,” said West Baton Rouge Department of Public Works Director Kevin Durbin. “It’s way bigger than it was when I first started.”
A draft of the West Baton Rouge Heritage Trailway system includes six other multi-use paths south of the Intracoastal and three others in the Port Allen area.
“When you go city to city, what we find isn’t a single trail that makes a difference. It’s a system,” Durbin said. “It accomplishes so much in the master plan.”
A walkable trail system in the parish has economic, health, environmental, social and even traffic benefits, he said.
The system of trails was established a few years ago, to coincide with the parish’s 2011 master plan, PlanWEST.
“Our sidewalks and trails at the walking parks are one of the most used things at our facilities,” said West Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation Director Anatole Vincent. “Being able to be up on the levee and see the river and the wildlife, I think it’s a great addition.”
The pedestrian facilities at parks are often utilized by older people and young families in the early evening, Vincent said. While the parks are good, they don’t provide the same type of scenery, he said.
“I like to run where there are things to see,” said local runner Michelle Pinkston.
Pinkston, a Brusly Middle School secretary, said she usually averages about 20-25 miles per week, although she used to run more.
Places like Brusly are great for running because the subdivisions generally have good “fingers” to explore, she said. She occasionally runs around Alexander Park too, but it can get a little dull.
“If the kids are out playing ball, that gives you scenery,” she said. “I don’t want to go in circles. I can’t just go around the park 20 times.”
The new trail “taps into” the West Baton Rouge’s biggest natural resource, the Mississippi River, Vincent said.
If they are approved and funded, the other trails in the Heritage Trailway system would all tie into levee top trail and would ultimately run between Addis Lane and extend several more miles north to the Huey P. Long Bridge.
To do that, pedestrian access would be needed across the Intracoastal Canal and the Port of Baton Rouge. The Intracoastal Canal Bridge is scheduled for replacement in 2020, which may provide an opportunity for the parish to rethink future pedestrian access, Durbin said.
“Now is the time to talk about it because they’re coming in hot and heavy with the new bridge,” he said.
The new trails would provide an added safety benefit to some of the local roads as well, Durbin said. The DOTD is studying some intersections along La. Hwy. 1 to implement crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signs, he said.
“I’m definitely excited about it extending to Addis and the trail extending to First Street and to Myhand Park,” said Addis Mayor David Toups, referring to the Acadian Trail, which is next in the trail pipeline. If approved, it would travel from Myhand Park in Addis, to First Street, down Harris Avenue and cross La. Hwy. 1 to the levee trail.
“It’s really going to extend to the middle of the town and hopefully give everyone an avenue to exercise,” Toups said.
Durbin cautioned that the new trail systems are not built for motor vehicles, though. The parish is implementing some temporary signs to stave off trucks, dirt bikes, quads and the like from the levee top.
The issue was brought up to the Brusly Town Council earlier this summer when residents walking the levee top came across people speeding down the backside of the levee in quads and dirtbikes. The vehicles put additional stress on the pavement and cause rapid wear-and-tear, Brusly officials said.
Vehicles weren’t technically supposed to be up there to begin with, Durbin said. The rule is enforced by local police offices.
Pictured above: Workers level the dirt on the levee to near Beaulieau Lane.
Photo by Quinn Welsch/The West Side Journal