Bayou Teche paddle trail planning meetings this week

by Mary Tutwiler

The Tour du Teche, the 130 long paddle race down Bayou Teche in September was a winner in more ways than one.

The Tour du Teche, the 130 long paddle race down Bayou Teche in September was a winner in more ways than one. Not only did it attract more than 60 teams from across the country to compete in the adventure race, it also enthralled host towns and spectators all along the snaking waterway from Port Barre to Morgan City. But perhaps the biggest winner was the the race's organizational groups, who have received a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service to plan for an official paddle trail down the bayou. The Center for Cultural and Eco-tourism at UL Lafayette, TECHE Project and Acadiana RC&D will be co-managing this NPS Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance project.

Race director Ken Grissom says, "We found out for sure what we had taken on faith: Bayou Teche is a magical place, balancing beauty with mystery and wilderness with culture. People who came for the race will come back to explore at their leisure. This is a paddler's paradise and the word is leaking out all over the country."

The project will help communities along Bayou Teche address the need for kayak, canoe and pirogue access to the bayou, water quality improvement needs and small economic development potential. A steering committee composed of parish government appointees, recreation and business development experts and interested parties is being developed to help develop the plan with the National Park Service. Four public planning meetings will be held by February. Public input will drive the planning process and will help prioritize projects during the implementation phases.

The first public meeting will be held at 5:30 Tuesday, November 16th at the Community Room next to the Town Hall in Port Barre, located at 105 Saizan Ave, Port Barre. The second will be held on Thursday, November 18th at 5:30 on the Chitimacha Reservation in Charenton at the school gym.

Call 585-7646 for more info about the Port Barre meeting,  923-9960 for info about the Charenton meeting.