Landowners Opposed to Levee Bicycle Path Plan

We have a follow up today on the proposed bike and pedestrian path to be built along the levee.  ABC 31 News’ Joel Massey has more.

It was standing room only at the levee bike path committee put together by the Rapides Parish Police Jury.  Most of the people who attended were landowners opposed to the path which would run from Ft. Derussy in Marksville to a park in Boyce.  Here’s what some of them had to say.

“My name’s Mark Lemoine I work for Pine Bluff sand and gravel.  We have a facility upstream of the Diamond B asphalt plant and the port of Alexandria.  And we have a mile of riverfront. So we don’t want our dumptruck guys dodging bicycles.  So Pine Bluff sand and Gravel’s opposed to it for a variety of reasons.  It would open up the levees at both ends would just invite trouble.”

Sheriff Mark Wood said, “I don’t think going through these folks’ property, in their back yards and front yards, I mean these folks if you go to their house, they live there.  My two cents for what it’s worth I think they need to look elsewhere too.”

“My house is about 200 foot from the levee I live between the levee and the river.  The levee is my yard.  We pay taxes on it we use it. I just think it’s a bad deal, bad place.  I think there’s better places for it. I have cows, I own about a mile and half of levee between here and Boyce.”

“I want to say that I’m here in support of the feasibility study to see if this is a viable thing to do.  In early 2020 I fell off a ladder and I hurt my leg I could barely move my knee.  I took to bicycling and it changed my life.  It was transformative I had no range of motion and now with bicycling I’m back at it. I think this is so important because it’s such an economic opportunity not only for the stakeholders like me, but also for the people along the trail because the type of people that do this bicycling are people that invest thousands of dollars on their bikes, and they’re ready to spend money.”

“I don’t want a bunch of people riding down the levee looking at the stuff that I own that my neighbors own.”

“My property’s not in Rapides Parish but in Grant Parish. It really concerns me that this has gone this far because like they said I own the property. Levee board has no control over that except to maintain the levee for flood control. And I’m a member of the levee board on our side of the river. This should go away this should never have gotten this far in my opinion.”

“The cattle gap idea, I have cows that can jump a cattle gap.  They get out all the time.  We have gates up to keep them in. So if those gates get left open and my cows get out and get hit on the road.  Who’s going to be responsible?

“Everybody pays taxes for the levee.  Why was the land acquired from private owners to start with.  The land was privately owned when the state took it. The state took it under a statute a levee statute to protect the citizens from storm protection, and drainage regulation.  It never said we’re taking your land so the public can have access to your land.”

Ollie Overton, Vice President for the Rapides Parish Police Jury Dist. F said, “The president of the jury was approached with this idea and the only thing we did was set up a study committee so we could hear what both sides had to say.  At this point in time it’s very confusing.  I can understand the homeowners not wanting anyone to infringe upon their property. I understand that very well.  So that’s going to be an issue that’s going to have to be taken care of.”

The chairman of the committee did not want to comment, but Overton says they will now wait to see what the levee board has to say about the project.  But with all the opposition it doesn’t look good for the project moving forward.

Louisiana state law extends protections to property owners that limit property owner liability but even with that assurance most of the landowners were against it.