The new Nicholls Bayou-Side Park offers one of the few public access points into Bayou Lafourche. At least five more park sites are taking shape this year. 

Bayou Lafourche has been restored and now parks and landing re being installed.

Years of work and millions of dollars have gone into the restoration of Bayou Lafourche. Now it’s time to show it off. A half dozen park projects are planned or underway along the once-clogged and stagnant bayou running from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon. New docks, boat launches, trails and other amenities will hopefully turn an increasing number of bayou visitors into better stewards of the waterway, said Ryan Perque, executive director of Friends of Bayou Lafourche, a nonprofit group that advocates for the bayou’s restoration. “People used to look at the bayou as a drainage ditch,” he said. “But over the last two years, they’ve been recognizing it’s a viable recreational amenity [and] its a water source for over 300,000 people. They’re recognizing they need to keep it clean.”

Nicholls State benefits from the first phase of the improvements.

Last month, the Friends group finished the first phase of improvements at the new Nicholls Bayou-Side Park, alongside Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The narrow, nearly 8-acre property now has a paved parking area, open-air shelter and, for the first time, easy access to the bayou via a floating dock and launch for kayaks, canoes and other nonmotorized boats. The Friends group covered the $305,000 in design and construction costs and donated the finished amenities to Nicholls State. “While the bayou has always been across the street from the university, it has been very difficult to access,” Nicholls President Jay Clune said. “What the Friends of Bayou Lafourche have done is given our community a way to connect more deeply with our environment and our culture. I could not be more grateful for the work they have done.” In later phases of the Nicholls park project, the Friends group plans to build a boathouse, amphitheater, walking paths and other amenities for university and public use. The project, likely to cost $8 million, could also include features that slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety along the road that runs between the Nicholls campus and the bayou. The Friends group is raising money for the next phases and doesn’t yet know when they’ll be completed.

Three more projects are planned to be finished this year.

The group plans to complete at least three other park projects this year: a disabled-access boardwalk and float dock in Napoleonville across Louisiana 308 from Assumption High School, a float dock with bays for small motorboats in downtown Thibodaux and a float dock near the Cajun Bayou Visitor Center on Louisiana 1 between Raceland and Matthews. Also in development are a boat launch between Thibodaux and Raceland and a float dock and parking area on the batture portion of the E.D. White Historic Site near Labadieville.

These are all improvements as the Bayou is online to be connected to the Mississippi so that it has a stable flow of water.

The park improvements come in the final stretch of a $180 million effort to reconnect the Mississippi River to the bayou. More than a century ago, Lafourche was sealed off from the river, its main source of freshwater, triggering a series of environmental problems, including the loss of wetlands south of Houma and New Orleans. A long-delayed pump station in Donaldsonville, considered the lynchpin of the decades-in-the-making project, was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in November. The station will triple the Mississippi’s flow into the bayou and help push out encroaching saltwater that is blamed for wetland loss and water quality issues in south Lafourche Parish. The Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District, which is leading the project, also recently removed a small dam, known as a weir, that for decades had blocked boats in Thibodaux, essentially cutting the bayou into two parts. The dam’s removal allows boaters to travel all 106 miles of the bayou. “The weir removal was a big step that opened the bayou to boat traffic,” Perque said. “Bringing in the Bayou-Side Park and other [parks] is great timing.”

A three-dimensional rendering shows a pump station that the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District wants to build in Donaldsonville at the Mississippi River. The district wants to increase the flow of fresh water from the river into the bayou.

It is always good news when neglected water areas are brought back into live. And the parks and landings planned make this accessible to the citizens,

Bayou Lafourche gains parks
Tagged on: