A new bike trail is being constructed along the levee top in St. Bernard Parish, providing amazing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike–all while helping boost the local economy. Thanks in part to a generous donation of both land and funds from the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, the project is moving from concept to reality.
“We are thrilled to help support the efforts of Bike St. Bernard. The new bike path will be a fantastic addition to the parish,” said Rita Gue, president of the Meraux Foundation. “It will be an added recreational outlet for residents and help attract new residents and visitors to the parish, boosting our local economy.”
The St. Bernard bike trail is part of the larger Mississippi River Trail. This system consists of local bike trails and multi-use pathways that stretch from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota to the river’s delta. The St. Bernard Parish portion of the trail, 11 miles long in length, will ultimately link St. Bernard Parish to Orleans and Plaquemines Parishes. In addition, the trail will eventually join with the planned 40 Arpent Trail, a 26-mile long bike trail loop that wraps around the parish. A key point on that planned trail is the 40 Arpent Wetland Observatory, for which the Meraux Foundation donated land.
“The bike trail connects the dots with a number of our Foundation’s projects, and it reinforces our Foundation’s ‘one river thinking’ strategy,” Gue continued.
After some original setbacks, the first two phases of construction on the St. Bernard Parish bike trail are finally moving forward with construction set to begin in September. The project had been ready to move forward when Hurricane Katrina hit, and then the community’s priorities shifted toward recovery. Not long after, the project was in danger of falling apart because the plans did not have a trailhead to cross railroad tracks and gain access to the levee.
That’s when the Meraux Foundation stepped in. The Foundation donated land near the Violet Canal that allows for a trailhead, space for parking, and an ADA compliant ramp. Later, the project faced another hurdle when a geo-technical survey was required. Again, the Meraux Foundation helped by generously underwriting the cost of the survey.
“The Meraux Foundation saved the project,” said Susan Klees, a board member of Bike St. Bernard. “We share a vision for what can be done in St. Bernard Parish, and it’s so nice to have a partner like the Meraux Foundation to support us.”
The new asphalt bike trail will run from the Valero Refinery in Meraux to the Violet Canal in Violet.
The trail will provide for many recreational activities such as biking, running, walking, and roller blading. People will also be able to easily wander off the path and into the stores and restaurants of St. Bernard Parish to shop and dine.
Bicycle tourism is a popular trend across the United States, according to Klees. She said that she has seen first-hand how businesses, restaurants, cafes, and bed and breakfasts have popped up along bike trails to cater to riders. She also sees an existing market across the parish line in Orleans that the St. Bernard Parish bike trail will help tap into.
“In New Orleans, the bike tours always go upriver,” Klees explained. “Now with the St. Bernard Parish stretch of the Mississippi River Trail, bike tours will be encouraged to come downriver, and visit St. Bernard, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, and supporting our community. It will have apositive and significant impact on our local economy.”
The bike trail capitalizes on the national trend towards creating more bike-friendly communities. St. Bernard Parish will be better connected to neighboring parishes, improving the quality of life for all.