St. Martin Parish Council backs trail at Atchafalaya Welcome Center

Ken Grissom

ST. MARTINVILLE – The irony of the state-of-the-art natural history interpretive center at the Butte La Rose interstate exit is that it’s surrounded by at least two lanes of asphalt.

The swamp it is interpreting is so near and yet so far, said Dr. Richard Goyer, who proposes to add a nature trail.

“They say ‘Experience the Atchafalaya, it’s right outside the door.’ But you go outside the door and what you see are 18-wheelers whizzing by.”

The Parish Council Tuesday, April 7, gave Goyer a vote of support in his efforts to attract federal grant money to a million-dollar, multi-phase project to get tourists outside and actually into the swamps an adjacent to the state’s $5 million showpiece complete with talking swamp creatures.

Phase I, costing an estimated $238,000, would be an 1,800-foot walking trail with a foot bridge and a raised observation deck.

It would at least be partially funded by the same trails program through the U.S. Department of Transportation used to build walking trails at Henderson, Catahoula and Coteau Holmes.

Goyer, a professor at LSU, heads up a non-profit called Little Leaf Louisiana, which is applying to the Louisiana Recreational Trails Program to fund the “Wetland Discovery Trail” at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center.

He noted that school kids who come to the interpretive center tend to get restless after a short while and would benefit from an educational exercise in which they get to stretch their legs.

There will be volunteers as well as signs to tell people what kinds of plants and animals they are seeing.

“We will educate future voters as to the value of the wetlands,” Goyer said.

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