Plans are underway to make St. Charles Parish more accommodating and accessible for walking and bicycling and in order to maximize those efforts, the parish and the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) are looking to the public to provide input.
Two meetings are set for early June for the public to discuss the parish’s first Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, which is scheduled to be done by January of next year. The intention of the plan is to upgrade different locations within the parish for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The hope of the parish and the RPC is that, through the meetings, St. Charles Parish residents will be able to help identify optimal areas for those upgrades, which will include safer pedestrian and bicycle access to highways in the parish.
The first meeting is scheduled June 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Destrehan High School. The second will be held June 14 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Hahnville High School.
“It’s part of the process,” said Darrin Duhe, Executive Director of Procurement and Government Buildings. “We’ve got to have (the public’s) buy in and their input. The emphasis is on safety. You’ve got to have your voice heard, and only way to do that is if you’re there to be proactive in it.”
The New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC) hired the Metairie engineering firm in November to make the parish’s first Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan. RPC received grant funding for the project.
Duhe said that while safety is the top priority, providing greater accessibility is also a focus, in hopes of encouraging people to pursue activities like walking, running and bicycling more. Successfully doing so would not only promote fitness, he said, but also would make a positive impact for the environment.
“The only bike paths we have here are really on the tops of the levees and on Ormond Boulevard,” he said, “We‘d like to try to incorporate them into rest of landscape, to where it becomes second nature for people to use these paths, and be able to safely use them, in their everyday life.”
He said while officials can discuss theorized areas for upgrades, the ability to hear concrete examples from parish residents of what would benefit them should offer a much clearer picture of what is to be done.
“We’ll have a map and someone can come up and mark, probably with a highlighter, and say, ‘I live right here. If we can get a bike path between wherever I live, down this street over to here, then I can ride my bike to the store or to the library. My kids can ride their bike to school.’ Instead of us saying it would probably be good to have something here or have something there, we can have the residents actually plot out on the maps what they’d like to see.”
He said residents at the meeting will be asked to identify existing deficiencies and access further expansion of the walking and bicycling infrastructure in order to make the parish a safer place for those activities.
For information about the project, one may visit walkbikescp.com. Duhe encouraged people interested in attending the meeting to visit the site.
“You’ve gotta have your voice heard, and only way to do that is if you’re there to be proactive in it,” Duhe said.