Ribbon cutting held for Phases 1 & 2 of Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail

Staff Report

Phases 1 and 2 of the new Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail, a walking and biking trail on the Mississippi River levee, officially opened April 5 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Plaquemine Mayor Ed Reeves Jr. cuts the ribbon to officially open Phases 1&2 of the Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail.

Mayor Edwin “Ed” Reeves, Jr. led the celebration, noting that three Selectmen who approved funding for the project, had died within the past two years: Selectmen Ralph Stassi, Jr., Oscar Mellion and Jimmie Randle.

Reeves thanked the present Board of Selectmen for its support of the project and approval of funding. He also thanked Dow Chemical Co. for its $100,000 donation to the project, and the State Louisiana Recreational Trails Program for two grants totaling $178,876.

This project was one of the first that Reeves initiated after taking office in 2017.

“I had seen how popular levee trails are in other communities and wanted that for our residents,” he said.

Phases 1 and 2 includes the trailhead adjacent to the Plaquemine Lock Historic Site and extension of the trail north to the North Plaquemine Park. It includes two walkways up the levee from the Plaquemine Lock Site property.

Once a master plan for the trail was developed, the City had to go through a very long and arduous process of getting permits and approvals involving some 10 federal and state agencies. “We had to work with the La. Office of State Parks because the Lock property is on the National Register of Historic Places,” Reeves said. “We had to get environmental, water conservation, federal historic preservation, and even La. Fish and Wildlife approvals. Just getting the US Corps of Engineers permit took almost a year, and the Atchafalaya Basin Levee District approval took longer.”

Michael Domingue, Recreational Trails Administrator for the Louisiana Office of State Parks, speaks as Mayor Ed Reeves listens during the dedication for Phases 1&2 of the Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail. The city received a total of $178,876 from the program for the trail.

While the City was working through the permitting processes, it was seeking grants for the project. Reeves thanked Michael Domingue, Recreational Trails Administrator for Louisiana, for his assistance with the two grants the City received.

He noted that Dow also contributed to the project. “Dow has been a friend to the City of Plaquemine for many years, and has funded many worthy city projects and events,” he said. “This one is no different. I can’t say thanks enough to Dow for its commitment to our City and help with this project.”

Abby Barton, Public Affairs Manager for Dow Chemical Co., speaking as Mayor Ed Reeves looks on. Dow donated $100,000 to the project.

Abby Barton, Public Affairs Manager for Dow, was on hand for the celebration, and she noted “Dow has been a part of the local community for more than 65 years now and we believe in more than just operating here, but truly being a part of the local community and giving back. We’re honored to be a part of the team to contribute to the Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail and we look forward to seeing people from across the community come together to walk, run, bike and make memories for many generations to come.”

Reeves thanked Jeff Bell, landscape architect with CSRS, Inc. for his extensive work on the project. He added that the City was fortunate that local builder Edward Earl Comeaux of Comeaux Brothers Construction was the low bidder on the project last summer. He faced numerous problems on this job, including COVID stoppages, supply shortages and long delivery times, but the trail was finally completed in March. “Edward Earl’s company has its footprint on many beautiful projects in our City,” he said.

Phase 3 is currently in the La. Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) review process and is on track to bid it out in August. This will be the extension of the trail south to near the ferry landing, with a walkway down the levee at the Fort Area Park. In addition, it includes solar lighting of the entire trail and signage. The City has secured a grant of up to $1 million from the La. Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) for Phase 3, with a 20% local match.

Once complete, the trail will be about 1.3 miles long, at a cost of approximately $1.5 million. Our total grants were $275,000 from Dow and the state, and up to $1 million from DOTD, with a 20% local match, to complete Phase 3.

“This trail serves dual purposes,” Reeves said.  “It provides another recreational trail for our residents to get exercise and spend time relaxing with beautiful views, and it adds to our downtown tourist attractions. Those visiting the Lock and Museum now have easy access to a fantastic view of the Mississippi River.”

Residents are reminded that this is a walking and biking trail. Four-wheelers and vehicles of any kind are prohibited from using this trail.

It is illegal for these vehicles to travel on the levee. Police Chief Kenny Payne said that anyone seeing prohibited use of these vehicles on the levee trail should call the Police Department at (225) 687-9273 or him personally at (225) 776-4807 so he can have a police unit dispatched immediately.