Image by geralt from Pixabay

Grants are a wonderful thing and in this case the Barataria Preserve benefits.

The Barataria Preserve, a 26,000-acre slice of wetlands just outside of Marrero that has long been a haven for fishing and hunting enthusiasts, is getting several newly built trails, thanks to a recent federal grant. The Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve will use $29 million in emergency grant funds to rebuild three trails at Barataria that were destroyed after Hurricane Ida ravaged the area last fall, officials announced. Those include trails at Bayou Coquille, the Marsh Overlook and the preserve’s visitor center. The grants will also be used to repair Jean Lafitte park buildings and a wastewater treatment plant at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park that was damaged by Ida. All projects are expected to be completed within three years. “We’re grateful to these project funds we’re getting to rebuild, and hopefully don’t have to close them as often,” Supervisory Park Ranger Kimberly Acker said, passing by park visitors on the Bayou Coquille trail. “The public loves these trails. They want to see them reopen.”

I am a long time supporter of the Park Service and I am glad they got these grants as they are underfunded.

Park staff are still working to repair and reopen other trails that don’t need a complete overhaul, staffers said. The first trail at Barataria Preserve, Bayou Coquille trail, reopened about a month after Hurricane Ida made landfall in late August, and the park now has five of its 10 trails open. The park’s Education Center trail is estimated to reopen in two more months. Officials will provide more updates on their website as repairs continue. Trails at the preserve are either covered in gravel, or traversable by resin boardwalks. Though the preserve only received minor damage on its gravel-covered trails, staffers still must replace and build up that gravel so that the area is less prone to flooding. Debris on the trails must also be cleared, staffers said. Meanwhile, boardwalk trails, which go over preserve waterways and which were installed in 2007, were already worn down from repeated storms over the past 15 years. Ida made those trails even more dangerous to use, staffers said. “When we walked a section of (Bayou Coquille trail) on September 5, I may be exaggerating, but this section was at a 45 degree angle,” Park Ranger Julie Whitbeck said.

The rangers have been working and experimenting on finding better and stronger way to rebuild the trails.

Park staffers had already been testing ways to make those trails sturdier, such as by reinforcing the resin planks. But it’s likely that concrete or another type of material will be used now that the grant funding has been secured, they said. On one recent visit, a boardwalk on the Marsh Overlook trail that had been built using concrete looked to have no damage compared to the resin boardwalk sections on either side of it. Damage was evident in other parts of the park, as several large tree branches were strewn next to their trunks along the paths. Close to the park’s entrance, a tree had been knocked to the ground, with its roots exposed. The storm surge also shifted boardwalk planks and trail soil.

Concrete may be stronger and last longer but it is not as appealing as the resin boards. But… Where did the grants come from?

The grant funds stem from the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act. While they will be a boon for the park, they won’t cover rebuilding costs for all of the Barataria Preserve trails that need it. To rebuild its Christmas Road and Ring Levee trails, the preserve hopes to use funding from the Louisiana Restoration Area Trustee Implementation Group of The Deepwater Horizon Trustee Council, staffers said.

Support the parks, visit the Visitor Centers and talk with the rangers. They know their work.

Grants come in for Ida relief
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