Advisory Council members introduced

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Once nearly mothballed by the stroke of the Army Corps of Engineers’ pen, Poole’s Bluff has been revitalized and a recently formed citizens group has been charged with preservation of the tranquil area for years to come.

During the Washington Parish Council meeting Monday night, Thomas introduced Melinda White as the chairman of the newly formed Poole’s Bluff Nature Park Advisory Council, a five-member panel that has as its mission advising the administration and council on development, utilization and preservation of the area, the formulation of goals and objectives and creation of fundraising activities.

“I’m real proud of each of you,” Thomas said. “We’re really excited about this program starting.”

Several years ago the Corps announced plans to close off the Poole’s Bluff area, which is a popular fishing hole and launching spot south of Bogalusa along the Pearl River Navigational Canal. Although navigation has long ceased, the canal is considered fertile ground for bass fishing and also provides an outlet to the Pearl River.

White helped formed a group to save the park, and eventually the Corps and the state reached an agreement allowing the parish to sublet the approximate 10-acre site. Two years ago the parish signed a 25-year extension with the Corps that includes an option for renewal by the parish.

Councilman Ken Wheat has long been the driving force behind the revitalization of Poole’s Bluff and has ambitious plans that eventually call for a gazebo, recreation trails, play area, fire pit and fishing pier.

Already, a memorial is in place honoring U.S. Marine Cpl. David “Bear” Stewart, who was killed in Iraq in 2005.

“(The memorial) changed the face of that area to a more respected area,” White said. “We want to preserve it as much as we can with the nature that is already there and not make it a three-ring circus type of thing. We want to enhance what we already have and have people enjoy that at ease.”

Wheat announced the parish has received a federal grant for $89,300 that should cover most of the expense of construction of the gazebo, a trail that will wind its way near the canal banks and a fishing pier that will be constructed on the northern end of the property.

Students at Northshore Technical Community College are designing the gazebo and will construct the structure at no cost to the parish. Wheat said those in-kind services are eligible to be used as part of the match for the grant, which was administered by the FHWA Recreational Trail Program for Louisiana.

“It’s more than creation, it’s a way of life,” Wheat said. “This not for the short term. We want to preserve this for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. That is what this is all about.”

Wheat said a lengthy permitting process is complete, and the gazebo design is in process.

“When the finished product is done the people of Washington Parish will be happy and the park will be well visited,” council Chairman Greg Route said.

Advisory council members include White, Ed King, Kevin Nielsen, Daryl Lee and Sandra Stewart.

“The trail going through the cypress (scheduled to be completed at a later date) is excellent for kids and to take school trips. They can explore those areas and use the gazebo for lunch and talk about what they learned.

“The fishing pier is excellent because a lot of people can’t afford the boats the motors, the gas to get on the water. This would give them the opportunity to do that.”

In other council news, Public Works Director Leo Lucchesi said the pilings have been driven and the guard completed on the Poplas Street bridge in Bogalusa. He said curbing and the approaches are still to be completed and added the bridge should be open for traffic by June.

Also, councilman Mike Fussell said the parish’s resolution calling for a severance tax for sand and gravel was endorsed at the state Policy Jury Association’s annual convention.

“It passed with flying colors,” he said. “No questions asked but that’s just the first step. I spoke to many parishes and they feel the same way.”

Councilmen are hoping to convince legislators to approve the proposal, which would tax the gravel and sand excavated from parishes and used to form concrete. Washington Parish is a major source of gravel mining and if approved the tax would generate additional income to the parish.

However, officials expect a difficult route through the legislature.

“We’re just trying to round up as much support as we can,” Fussell said.