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Sunday, September 22, 2019

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News of Leeville Boat Launch met with guarded optimism

News of Leeville Boat Launch met with guarded optimism

The Leeville community got some welcomed news at Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting.  Progress on a public boat launch is happening.

But the welcome was guarded because the launch is not built yet.

Funding is in place.  Lafourche Parish, LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and now the state, are kicking in $1.5 million toward completion of the project.

The long-awaited land transfer between the LA Department of Transportation and the parish for the property on which the launch will be built has finally been completed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit has been received by the parish.

Grant applications and a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement must be ironed out between LDWF and the parish.

The bidding process should take about 2 months, according to Parish President Charlotte Randolph.

Even so, the frustration of Leeville residents is so apparent you can hear their lament even while the community is in the midst a very successful fishing season. They were hoping to have their public launch by now to alleviate launching and parking problems, and to draw more business to Leeville; but the project’s start is still months away.

The elevated LA Hwy. 1, which bypassed Leeville, has depressed the economy of the community.  Fishermen turn right before reaching Leeville’s stores, bait shops, and other businesses and continue on to areas further south.

When they hear quasi-sympathetic statements that historically similar “slow deaths” occurred in Lockport and Raceland when state highways were moved, it is little comfort.

They care about Leeville, not Lockport.

They formed “Launch Leeville” to advertise their feelings as well as their fishing village.

With the Lafourche Parish Council’s blessing, Janet Rhodus, founder of “Launch Leeville”, successfully applied for Leeville to be deemed a cultural district, which brings with it various tax incentives including a tax break for rehabilitating structures.

The Legislature also recently approved the creation of a commission that will be authorized to raise money and acquire lease and sell land aimed at promoting the “Leeville Fishing Village.”

Even so, Leeville is not happy.

“I am excited with the progress, but launching and parking is getting to a critical point,” said Rhodus, whose non-profit organization is pushing the opening of the public launch. 

She described the loss of parking areas along Hwy. 1 and the increased danger of parking there because the GeauxPass toll booth went from two lanes to three.

Kent Hornbeck, owner of Boudreaux’s Motel in Leeville, announced at Tuesday’s meeting that, beginning July 4th, he will not allow public launching at his ramp. Hotel customers who show up on weekends have no place to park near their reserved room, he said. 

When President Randolph asserted that the public launch will have room for only 50 boats and that it cannot solve the whole problem of lost economy in the community, Leeville residents disagree. When she stated that launchers might want to become customers of businesses like Boudreaux’s and nearby Bobby Lynn’s Marina in order to get water access, they bristle.

Bob Gourges, Leeville guide and star of the “Between the Banks” fishing show, says it has been a “long struggle to get this (public) launch opened.”  The idea that there is plenty of room to launch at places like Bobby Lynn’s and Boudreaux’s is not true, according to Gourges.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine, who represents Leeville’s residents, also disagrees. “There are two launches in Leeville.  But Boudreaux’s and Bobby Lynn’s are gonna serve their customers first.  If there is no extra room, there is no help,” said Lorraine.

When Councilman Phillip Gouaux asked Rhodus on Tuesday why she and others keep coming to council meetings insisting on the launch, even when everyone supports them, she held up a folder full of reasons.

“For years this project did not move.  I’ve got public records that show this project was stalled because the property could have been gotten for free.  Now it is costing the taxpayers.  Now we have to pay for it.  We are vigilant because it will stall again,” said Rhodus.  

Lorraine, who customarily likes to put Randolph on the spot, asked her if the project would start in one to two months.

“The last time I made a prediction, it took a year.  I’m not gonna say,” Randolph answered.

“It’s time to rock and roll on this (launch).  I’m not gonna let what happened to Clovelly happen to Leeville.  I’ll call a public meeting in Leeville and invite her (Randolph),” threatened Lorraine.