Terrebonne seeks paddling grant after cycle trail rejected

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Paddling enthusiasts could have new adventures to look forward to if Terrebonne Parish officials are successful in their renewed their quest for recreational grant money. But at least one recreational boating organization says portions of the idea may need additional review.

The money, offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is for expansion of all types of trails to encourage outdoor activities. The parish’s initial application for marked bicycle routes was tossed because the roads cited weren’t wide enough in some places, running afoul of state safety standards.

So instead of pursuing a bike trail, said Terrebonne Parish Zoning Administrator Chris Pulaski, officials now are applying for establishment of “paddle trails” where kayaks, pirogues and canoes can be launched and enjoyed.

A canoe launch in Cocodrie – part of the initial cycling plans – would have allowed access to Lake Boudreaux, said Patrick Gordon, director of the Terrebonne Parish Planning and Zoning Department.

The grant, offered through the Recreational Trails Program by the U.S. Department of Transportation, reimburses local governments and non-profits 80 percent of the cost to build a trail or a component of a trail up to $100,000 in total project costs.

The grant can be used for urban corridor, multi-use, scenic, off-road vehicle or nature trails. Other dedicated uses or trails along levees, rail beds cycling walking paddling or horse-back trails are also considered.

Paddling enthusiasts, however, suggest that the parish look to waters other than those of the lake, which lies between Chauvin, Cocodrie and Dulac.

Lee Lee Trosclair, race coordinator with Paddle Down Da Bayou, a five-mile fund-raising trip that takes place on Bayou Petit Caillou, now in its second year, said that she would not recommend that paddlers set their oars in Lake Boudreaux because it’s too dangerous.

“[Lake Boudreaux] is a very shallow lake and so when the wind picks up, it’s just rough,” Trosclair said. “I’ve never kayaked in Lake Boudreaux.”

Trosclair said that she has paddled Bayou Petit Caillou – which connects to the lake through the Boudreaux Canal – many times. She did see a wind surfer on Lake Boudreaux once.

Parish officials, she said, should look toward placing paddling access points along the many bayous in the area, where waters are safer.

Most of the route along La Highway 56 has a wide enough shoulder for cyclists and drivers to travel in separate lanes, but there are spots where things get a little tight for cyclists.

“Like, there are some bridge crossings; there are some turning lanes where there is no shoulder,” Pulaski said. “…So there are these choke points that, at this time, the grant money that’s available isn’t anywhere near enough to address those areas.”

Original plans called for a 24-mile cycling trail shared with car and truck traffic beginning at City Park in east Houma, making its way around the Houma-Terrebonne Airport to La. Highway 56, then stretching southward to Bayou Sale Road in Chauvin.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development requires designated routes to be on roads that have speed limits of 30 mph or less to have shared bike lane signs, said Michael Domingue, US DOT’S Federal Highway Administration Recreational Trails Administrator for Louisiana.

Trosclair, who is also a cyclist, said that she has biked La. Highway 56 numerous times and that there is a shoulder wide enough for cyclists to travel on, but once the road crosses the Boudreaux Canal in Cocodrie, the shoulder disappears.

Some cyclists don’t think the parish should designate bike trails that force cyclists and drivers to share the same lane and should have segregated travel lanes for cyclists.

“The ones that they have now are not even marked. All they have is bicycle emblems in the middle of the road,” said Manuel Hargrave, owner of Bayou City Bicycles. Hargrave said few cyclists use an existing trail on Valhi Boulevard in Houma because they must share the lane with “too much traffic.”

“The drivers here, how would you say that? They’re not cycle-friendly,” Hargrave said. “They’ll blow their horn at you, they’ll try to run you over, and then they’ll laugh at you.”