A hearing on the ongoing levee trail litigation will be held Monday, June 18 at the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse.
Two landowners are seeking a declaration that the state statute which grants the levee districts power to build recreational trails along levee tops is unconstitutional. Tony Clayton called the suit “baseless.” Clayton, an assistant district attorney for the 18th Judicial District with a private practice, was hired as special counsel by the parish.
The legal dispute began when several landowners locked their gates, barring access to the levee top during the construction of the five-mile West Baton Rouge Heritage Trailway last year.
The Atchafalaya Basin Levee District gave its authority to West Baton Rouge Parish regarding the construction of the trailway, which is standard procedure in building recreational trails on the levee.
The Atchafalaya Basin Levee District is in no rush to approve more levee top trail projects until it tightens the language in its current policy, attorney for the levee district board Nicholas Rockforte said at the Wednesday, June 6 meeting.
The current recreational trail policy implies but does not explicitly require, landowners’ consent to build a trail, or pave, the levee top.
The levee is maintained by respective levee district boards and taxpayer funds, and therefore should be used for the benefit of taxpayers, Clayton said.
“Parish President Berthelot and the rest of the Council are just putting the people of West Baton Rouge first in this endeavor,” Clayton said.
The Atchafalaya Basin Levee District is drafting a cooperative endeavor for future projects, but is in no hurry with the court decision looming, which is subject to being appealed, Rockforte said.
“We believe that the statute is constitutional as you can see every major city in Louisiana,” Clayton said, noting the levee top trails in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
This case will set precedence for the handling of future levee top projects, Rockforte said.