Kudos to city for walking path construction

Published 8:25 am Friday, October 7, 2016

This week the city council passed an ordinance that will begin the construction of a walkway from Cassidy Park to Goodyear Park.

This should be good news for everyone in Bogalusa. Walking trails are assets to any community looking to improve the quality of life for residents and I hope this is the start of an ongoing effort to improve walking trails in the city. Many cities have rail-to-trail projects and the Tammany Trace project to our south is evidence of what a well-coordinated trail could look like. The trail is popular among almost every demographic as it provides a free service every day of the week for families, single joggers, pet owners and regular folks out for a stroll. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look as the Tammany Trace is 31 miles of paved trail that connects five Northshore communities. It was an ambitious project, paid for through federal dollars and grants. While such a project is perhaps the gold standard of urban trail design, Bogalusa need not aim so high to get a win.

As it is, walkers here have few options and, on the weekends, I find myself driving out of town just for a decent walk. In Bogalusa, you are limited to cemeteries, which are a bit dull, or there’s Cassidy Park. The park is beautiful and it’s shady, but it’s also relatively tiny.

Assuming the city has neither the funds nor the interest in buying the green space to across the creek and developing that, a series of walkways would be the next best thing. Urban walkways encourage fitness, and they also make neighborhoods safer as more pedestrians means more eyes on the street and both of those things are good for neighborhood revitalization. Finally, any stores or restaurants along the route could benefit from hungry or thirsty pedestrians as well.

However, to realize such a project requires leadership and vision. Looking at a map, it seems possible the city could connect Cassidy and Goodyear with the Avenue B baseball fields, for a decent-length trail that would also add benefit to that neighborhood.

Judging from comments at city council meetings, quite a few folks would like more businesses and commercial recreation in the city. There’s near monthly complaints about our city’s lack of a movie theater or a bowling alley. Of course, all of us would like to see more jobs come to Bogalusa. But economic development is something of a chicken and egg dilemma.

Businesses come to cities not out of some sense of social responsibility, but to make money. Commercial development happens once economic surveys show probable profits. Yes, cities may offer economic inducements for businesses to set up shop, but what businesses really want are profits over the long term.

Profits come from residents who have disposable income and that income is tied to wealth. At the same time, a stable, middle-class population is hard to establish without middle class jobs and without attractive commercial amenities. As I see it, it’s a dilemma somewhat out of the control of the city.

But the one area the city can make a difference is through the development of public amenities like the park and these walkways. I might not be able to go to a movie theater in Bogalusa, but thanks to Netflix, that doesn’t really matter. A town that doesn’t offer a movie theater is no longer a problem. What is a problem, though, is a town that doesn’t offer a safe space to walk around.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor for The Daily News. You can email him at jesse.wright@bogalusadailynews.com or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.