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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Meetings help residents ‘make a difference’

Meetings help residents ‘make a difference’

Lafourche Parish residents shared ideas on everything from creating cultural and recreational opportunities to stimulating the economy Tuesday at the Mathews Government Complex.

LA SAFE, or Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments, is helping six parishes – including Terrebonne and Lafourche – come up with community-focused plans to adapt to Louisiana’s changing landscape and complement the state’s Coastal Master Plan.

Tuesday’s meeting was one of the last before the plans are formed. Terrebonne’s meeting was held Oct. 21 at Rougarou Fest in Houma.

The state Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit is managing the initiative along with the Foundation for Louisiana’s Coastal Resilience Leverage Fund.

Rachelle Thomason with the Foundation for Louisiana said in the fifth round, which will happen sometime in December, residents will get to rank six projects organizers choose.

Regina Verdin, of Raceland, noted the importance of projects such as raising homes and providing a means for residents to relocate if necessary. She said she’d also like to see improvements to the area along La. 308.

Verdin said she’s been to almost all of the LA SAFE meetings and that it’s been an interesting experience.

“We started with a really big base of ideas and thoughts that came from the community,” she said. “Narrowing it down to just a few has been a pretty amazing process. ... People feel that the whole thought of coastal restoration is so big, like how can one person make a difference? This has been really good evidence that the community can really make a difference.”

LA SAFE has about $36 million to use in the six parishes, which also include Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany.

Project ideas on display Tuesday ranged from healthy-living programs and community gathering spaces to teacher incentives and help for new business owners.

Henri Boulet, director of the La. 1 Coalition, said he’d like to see levees with cement pathways and roads with bicycle lanes.

Boulet’s organization is working to elevate the state highway.

“We’re striving to secure access to the coast for the local community,” he said. “So we want to just make sure that, if there are any planning opportunities that can complement the La. 1 project, they’re considered. The particular project I’m working on is just one part of that larger transportation picture.”

Nick Matherne, project manager for Aptim, said his company serves as parish captain for LA SAFE.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from all different backgrounds of residents, from business owners to commercial fishermen,” he said. “That mix of expertise and experience has definitely led to a really positive, diverse array of concepts.”

Matherne said the meetings are helping ensure Lafourche remains an attractive place for people to stay or even relocate to in the future.

“Residents are having a chance to face the realities of the landscape that’ll be changing over the next 50 years and having an active role in shaping the plan to adapt to those changes,” he said.

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.