ARNAUDVILLE – Hands reached across the parish line this week to begin forming a watershed district for Bayou Teche similar to Lafayatte’s Bayou Vermilion District.
Mayor Kathy Richard hosted fellow mayors Gil Savoy of Port Barre. Joseph A. Pitre of Washington and Jack Dale Delhomme of Breaux Bridge, St. Martin Sheriff Ronny Theriot, and St. Martin Parish Director of Public Works Cassie Alexander, representing Parish President Guy Cormier.
Also attending were Celeste Gomez of the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, Dona Degatur Richard of the St. Martin Parish Tourist Commission, Jacques Privat, who handles recycling for St. Martin Parish Government and is director of Keep St. Martin Beautiful, and Blake Couvillion, organizer of the seminal Bayou Teche cleanup crew, which has been active on the upper part of the bayou down to Cecilia.
On the agenda were Sterling LeJeune, president of Bayou Vermilion District Board of Commissioners, Cindy Trahan, the district’s director, and Paul LaHaye, operations coordinator for the district.
The meeting’s facilitator was Kristen Kordecki, watershed coordinator for the Acadiana Resource Conservation and Development.
While litter and debris in the bayou brought this diverse group together initially – and remains a central concern – the goal rapidly expanded into the creation of a formal organization that could fund a variety of activities like future clean-up operations, education projects to mitigate pollution and siltation, and promotions to attract recreational use and visitors.
A cruise by the Lafayette Paddle Club later this year and the potential for a major canoe and kayak marathon on the Teche next year are ready-made examples of how the still-idyllic waterway can attract visitors to the Teche country.
LeJeune and Trahan explained that the Bayou Vermilion District is actually a creation of the legislature supported by a property tax. They offered a copy of their charter as a boilerplate from which to start. Another option under consideration would be to set up a non-profit supported by grants and donations.
The group agreed to consult with the area’s legislative delegation and Secretary Scott Angelle of the Department of Natural Resources for guidance on how to proceed further.
Also part of the formative group but unable to attend last Wednesday’s meeting are Mayors Joel Lanclos of Leonville, John Dugas of Parks and Thomas Nelson of St. Martinville, St. Landry Parish Police Jury President Don Menard, and St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.