Walking trail first step in ambitious project

Published 6:23 am Saturday, October 8, 2016


This week Bogalusa’s city council approved a contract to begin work on a walking trail to connect Cassidy Park on Willis Avenue to Goodyear Park on Avenue B.

Landon Tims, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the work will come after two years of planning, and it is the beginning of a much larger plan to one day weave a web of walking and biking trails throughout the city.

“The goal is to eventually tie it all together somehow,” Tims said. “The full plan isn’t developed, but the goal is to have biking and walking paths throughout town that can safety get you to where you need to go.”

Tims said that, nationally, there is a growing trend to walk or bike to work. At present, the city streets aren’t safe and in many places, sidewalks don’t exist.

“There’s not a lot of sidewalks in Bogalusa anymore,” he said. “But we would like to make designated paths. Not necessarily have a trail down every street in Bogalusa, but have a trail to every part of town you need to get to in a safe, recreational manner.”

The state is encouraging Louisiana cities to design walkways and paths. The current project, connecting Cassidy with Goodyear, is expected to cost about $140,000 and Tims said $100,000 of that came from a state grant.

“It’s from the recreational trails program from the Louisiana Office of State Parks,” Tims said. “One of the big things for the grant, one of the requirements was, they wanted you to connect a park to a park with sidewalks and a walking trail. So when I heard that, we went with a plan to connect Cassidy to Goodyear and when we submitted that grant proposal, we got it.”

The trail will make use of an existing dirt path that winds behind the Senior Center and along the Bogue Chitto Creek off Willis Avenue, and then cross the Avenue near where the high school baseball field begins. The trail will then continue around the corner and up Avenue B until it reaches Goodyear Park.
“If you took one lap at Cassidy and walk to Goodyear and then take one lap there and then walk back to your car at Cassidy that should be … right at about three miles, and that’s an approximation,” Tims said.

The project includes more than just painting a crosswalk on Willis, however. Tims said he realized the potential drawbacks of crossing Willis — a heavily trafficked road used by logging trucks as well as residents — but he believes enough safety measures will be added to ensure pedestrian safety.

“They will put up some crossing lights,” Tims said. “It’s a busy, dangerous street, but I made sure that we put enough things in the plans so that when you’re driving up to the intersection at Willis, you’ll now that’s a pedestrian crossing and you’ll pay attention.”

In addition, Tims said the crossing will use small road bumps, so sight-impaired pedestrians will know they’re venturing into traffic.
“Our goal is to make the town safer for pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said.

In addition, the sidewalks up the side of Avenue B on the high school side will be widened and, in some cases, replaced.

“All the damaged areas, especially in front of the high school will be pulled up and re-poured. And we plan to do some beautification projects around the crosswalks to show motorists there are pedestrians,” Tims said.

After this project is completed, Tims said he isn’t sure what direction he’d like to tackle next.

“We don’t know if we want to go north or south with our next grant,” Tims said.

He pointed out that the Avenue B bridge isn’t wide enough to easily accommodate bikes and pedestrians, but there could be a workaround if the city avoids the bridge altogether.

“Maybe we could cross the creek, build a suspension bridge or something, and connect it to the north side of town,” he said.

Tims said he’s open to the idea of connecting the Airport Sports Complex to the network.

“That would put a safe biking and walking path from Cassidy Park to the upper north side of town, which I guess would be the ultimate goal,” he said.

Whatever the eventual outcome though, Tims said he’s convinced it will be popular. Although he couldn’t give any estimate of how many walkers use Cassidy Park, he said there is always someone out there — day or night.

“There is no telling,” he said. “It’s a lot. We literally installed special lights in Cassidy Park for the walkers who walk at 4:30 or 5 o’clock when it’s dark … And it goes all day. Cassidy Park is definitely where a lot of people get their daily exercise.”