Boat launch committee members say they want a ‘good deal’ for the public

Desire access to area’s natural beauty for future generations

They come from throughout St. Charles Parish, but similarly hope to provide the longtime desired boat launches and marina on the West Bank that will allow everyone access to the area’s impressive waters.

“It’s all about the access,” said Barry Guillot, serving on the newly appointed 13-member West Bank Boat Launch Citizens Advisory Committee. “We have to make sure these waterways are accessible.”

Guillot’s fellow members agree.

For Kevin Gaubert of Luling, access is equally important to anglers but he said it should also be there for anyone who wants to share in an area so bountiful in waterways and natural beauty.

Yet, it hasn’t happened no matter how fervent those hopes have been. These committee members say they want to deliver.

In August, the council approved a controversial lease deal that ignited a political firestorm over investing more than $3 million in a “world-class facility” that most agreed would have been a welcome addition.

But the public, as well as council members Terrell Wilson and Paul Hogan, staunchly opposed leasing, rather than buying it, at $4,500 a month for 30 years.

This is why Rick Whitney of Hahnville offered to serve on the citizens committee.

“I’m of the opinion that the original lease was an awful agreement that had not been well devised or executed,” Whitney said. “It was not in the best interest of the St. Charles Parish taxpayers. I’ve grown tired of excessive government spending, quite often where I question motivation for the projects. I too would like to have first-class waterway access for generations to come, but only where the parish has been a good steward of the taxpayers’ funds.”Whitney maintained the plan should only be crafted after laying out a framework for the design and implementation for these developments.

“I’m fully prepared to recommend that no action be taken,” Whitney said. “I will not recommend any project that allows for the potential forfeiture of capital expenditures in the future for any reason.”

Gaubert wants to be a positive influence on the committee, and share his knowledge and experience in fishing, not just bass or competitive fishing, but fishing in general.

“It would bring a lot of money to the parish,” Gaubert said. “People come and fish and buy food, stay in hotels … it’s a good opportunity. Not to mention we really need it on the West Bank.”

Additionally, he envisions a good boat launch for recreation, as well as a place to park or launch a boat.

For Guillot, providing a boat launch and marina is all about the education.

“When I first moved to St. Charles Parish 25 years ago, we said we had some of the beautiful wetlands and no nature trails,” he said.

It inspired Guillot to develop Wetland Watchers Park in Norco where all families could go and spend quality time learning about the environment, but also learn why it’s important.

“We offer the recreation, but also sneak in all the reasons why the plants and animals are important,” he said. “Many call  (Wetland Watchers Park) St. Charles Parish’s ‘hidden gem’ and named it one of the top 10 crabbing areas in the whole New Orleans region.”

Guillot said he hopes the committee can find a place for boat launches with enough land to integrate environmental education.

“The problem is finding a place where all this can happen with waterways being accessible to the public,” he said. “I just wanted to be a part of it because I love this area we live in and would love to see more of it made accessible to families to get out there and enjoy these natural areas.”

Guillot considers the site the parish tried to lease for $4,500 a month as one of the best locations, but has since been told there are more areas to consider for a West Bank boat launch.

“I just want the best fit for everyone involved,” Guillot said. “If it’s out there, I want to be a part of finding it.”

Committee member Ron Touchard, of Des Allemands, said that as a lifelong fisherman, he knows what the area needs in terms of boat launches and wants to pursue good locations.

Doug Carter, a committee member who also lives in Des Allemands, agreed with members who want access to the area’s natural beauty. Carter wants it for his grandchildren.

Victor Buccola of Destrehan, also a member, said he hopes to make certain the parish’s elected officials don’t squander money and strap “my children, grandchildren and future generations with the bill for this. The outdoors that God gave us were meant for everybody to enjoy.”

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