When Ed Reeves became mayor at the beginning of the year, one of the first propositions he presented to the City Council was a waterfront park near the Plaquemine Lock,
“I proposed the project when I first took office in January and everybody sees the value of it,” he said.
An ambitious project, the first phase of the park will include observation decks on either side and will serve ultimately as the centerpiece of a 1.3-mile walking trail along the levee top. It will use the Plaquemine Lock’s existing parking lot.
“The lookouts will be out of the sightline for the lock because we want to keep that facility separate,” Reeves said. The plaza that will serve as the centerpiece for the park will be lighted and include benches.
At the base of the levee, the project will include a handicapped accessible ramp will begin near a new information kiosk.
Reeves explained how the project got to its current state.
He first approached Patrick Moore and Associates, the company that designed the park and walkways along Bayou Plaquemine, but Moore said his business was moving in another direction now and suggested Baton Rouge-based CSRS Inc.
The engineering and architectural firm assigned Jeff Bell for the Plaquemine project. “He’s been a real pleasure to work with,” Reeves said.
“We met this week and he gave us a timeline of where we are,” he continued, a timeline that indicates work on the project will likely not begin until 2019.
“We’re not talking about starting construction until 2019 and that’s the problem with this,” Reeves said. “Part of what’s holding us up is that we’re dealing with so many agencies.”
The plaza will need the approval of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Atchafalaya Levee Board and the Louisiana Department of State Parks, the mayor said.
“We’ve already met with the Corps of Engineers,” Reeves said. “They know it’s coming. We went to New Orleans and had a two or three hour meeting with them and they were very receptive to the idea.”
Many towns up and down the Mississippi River either have or are planning similar projects, “so the concept was nothing new to them.”
“It just takes them a long time to approve it – six months to a year – which I think is an awfully long time but we have to go through it,” Reeves said.
The project will be funded primarily with a grant from the state, a grant Reeves and Bell believe the city will be awarded. “Jeff (Bell) believes the city will receive the funds this January, then the clock starts ticking,” Reeves said.
“So that would put us at September of ’18 as the earliest date the project would begin the construction phase,” he continued. “We’re probably looking at 2019, though.”
“Jeff Bell feels very confident that we’re going to get the grant and we’ll get that money,,” Reeves said. “They feel very confident that we’re going to get this grant.”
Once the riverfront park is completed, Reeves said, the city will move to phase two, an asphalt walking track that will top the levee and travel down to North Plaquemine Park.
“We’re going to do this trail up to that park,” he said. “Phase three will be to extend the walking trail down to the ferry landing, which will make it 1.3 miles long.”
“Phase three won’t be that expensive,” said Chief Operating Officer Richard Alleman, a former city councilman. “That’s basically just putting up lighting and laying down asphalt.”
“The lighting we should probably be able to do ourselves because we have our own electric company,” Reeves said. The asphalt will likely cost about $100,000 for both phase two and three.
“I want to add that we are also planning on tying the levee top walkway to a new park,” Alleman said, a park the city is eying two locations in the area of Fort Street and La. 1.
“In our last council meeting, it was brought up that those kids who live on the river side of La. 1 have to cross two major highways, La. 1 northbound and southbound, to get to any park,” Reeves said, explaining why the Fort Street area park was conceived.
“…I think those kids need a park they can safely get to,” he continued. “Those highways are dangerous.”
The City Council has also approved about $600,000 in improvements to Plaquemine’s park system. Some of that money will come from Game Time Company, which will match the city’s contribution for playground equipment.
“Game Time will match whatever the city puts into, so if we put $100,000 into it, we’ll actually get $200,000 worth of equipment,” Reeves said.
Most of that money will go into City Park, on Belleview Drive about three blocks west of Eden Street, but $100,000 has been earmarked for Herman Graham Park, Reeves said, likely for a basketball court.
The Iberville Parish Council will also be investing in City Park, providing a wood chip bedding under the playground equipment and the accompanying wooden edging, Alleman said.
“The parish also takes care of cutting the grass and its Parks Department oversees the athletic programs like the baseball program,” he continued. “We work hand in hand with the parish out there at that park.”
“Iberville Parish Recreation Department also contributed some funding to the facility,” Alleman said, including reworking the baseball fields and adding new dugouts.