A major step to the addition of a boat launch on the West bank of St. Charles Parish came last week when the St. Charles Parish Council unanimously voted to approve a donation of 109.8 acres of land by Chevron to the parish for the purpose of a boat launch and park along Bayou Des Allemands.
The donation is land between Bayou Des Allemands and WPA Road, and talks between the parish and Chevron over the gift have been ongoing since the middle of 2018. With legal and liability hurdles seemingly cleared, there is a clear path to a project that’s been pursued for much longer – since the 1990s, some at the council meeting noted last week.
St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell called the donation “generous” and said the land offers incredible potential.
“Our intention for this property would be to build a world class boat launch facility for our residents who are sportsmen, on the West bank to launch their boats … this property has tremendous potential for not only a boat launch, but for bird watching, nature trails and RV sites along the bayou, as well as potential cabins for people to stay,” Jewell said just prior to the vote. “It really has a lot of potential.”
Jewell noted $1.8 million in RESTORE Act funding from the BP oil spill settlement that can be utilized toward the project. The first phase of the project is to build the launch site itself and also for a road to accompany it.
He also noted other sources of funding should be available via grants through the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Department of Homeland Security for birdwatching areas, elevated trails, RV sites and campsites. The general fund, he said, would also be in play as a source toward the project, which he said would offer a substantial improvement to the parish.
“There’s a lot of potential for this property for different uses … I can see it as our own mini Bayou Segnette or Lafreniere Park type of place. I really look forward to the possibilities,” Jewell said.
He also noted some engineering plans have already been laid out for the boat launch and, while a large process, that those plans would likely allow for a bit of a head start.
Councilwoman Holly Fonseca brought up a note in the agreement stating the property would never be used for commercial purposes – her concern was that without the ability to establish some on site revenue streams, like a bait shop, fuel station or camp sites, it could hamper the parish’s ability to support a potential launch facility.
Danielle Brocato, Chevron land representative among those working to make the donation a reality over the past several months, said that language was more toward true commercial property like hotels or retail stores beyond the boat launch project itself.
“I think anything providing for every day operation of the site is something Chevron would accept,” Brocato said.
The parish will be responsible for maintaining the property, as it will maintain ownership of the property.