Teche to be recognized paddle trail
By: Ken Grissom
Breaux Bridge – A paddle trail for Bayou Teche is one of 14 project in 13 states qualifying for help from the National Park Service through its Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
Under the RCTA Program, the Park Service doesn’t fund or run a project but rather provides resources for local creation and management of the project.
“We connect citizens with local agencies and organizations in an effort to create new parks and trails, as well as protect important water resources,” said Deirdre Hewitt, RTCA manager in the National Park Service’s Southeast Region.
“Although RTCA does not provide monetary support for projects, staff provide project partners with recreation and conservation planning and expertise,” Hewitt said. “RTCA staff assist local sponsors in the organization of public workshops, the development of public-private partnerships, the identification of funding sources and the development of community-based visions and realistic strategies for new trails, greenways, protected river corridors and natural areas.”
You might think a bayou is already a natural “paddle trail,” but the Teche is in need of canoe- and kayak-friendly landings, and maybe even some pocket campgrounds for those who want to overnight on the bayou.
With the help of RTCA, a local committee with representatives of the four parishes, the Chitimacha Nation, the Lafayette Paddle Club and others will address not only infrastructure needs but water quality, economic development and even the bayou’s colorful history.
While the National Park Service will have nothing to do with “running” the Bayou Teche Paddle Trail, its association through RTCA will allow the use of the famous arrowhead logo in promoting the trail – another plus for the under-utilized waterway.
In a public hearing at the Chitimacha Tribal School on the reservation last week, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers heard several dozen users of Bayou Teche request that a lock be placed in the cut at Charenton connecting Bayou Teche to the Atchafalaya Basin, or at the least that the flood gate there remain operable so boats too big to portage can go from one body of water to the other.
Access to the Basin, plus an operating lock between the upper and lower Teche at Keystone (now under the control of St. Martin Parish), and now a nationally known paddle trail, are all factors that could lead to increased recreational boating, increased tourism and an abundance of economic development opportunities along its 134-mile length.