Louisiana volunteers to be recognized for environmental work

A few more days remain for the public to vote for one of three finalists in the Louisiana’s 2013 Cox Conserves Heroes program recognizing environmental work by volunteers in the state.

Landry Camardelle, of Jefferson Parish.; Bart Everson, of New Orleans; and Wilma Subra, of New Iberia, were selected as finalists by a panel of judges for years of work in creating and preserving parks, advocating for new urban greenways and community environmental action.

The public can vote which of the three should receive the $10,000 they will donate to a nonprofit group of their choice.

The other two finalists will receive $2,500 each to donate to a nonprofit group of their choice.

Voting by the public continues through Friday at http://coxconservesheroes.com/louisiana.aspx.

The winners will be announced Sept. 20 during the Keep Louisiana Beautiful annual meeting in Baton Rouge.

Although Cox Enterprises has run the program in cities and states across the country since 2008, the first one held in Louisiana was in 2010 and that was confined to New Orleans.

The program made a comeback this year and was expanded to take statewide nominations, said Jeremy Theriot, public affairs specialist at Cox.

“It’s part of our big initiative to reduce our carbon footprint,” Theriot said.

Everson’s journey started in the spring 2005 when he and a friend were walking in an area of Bayou St. John and saw railroad lines being pulled up.

“My friend said that would make a good rails-to-trails project,” Everson said.

As someone who at that point had been riding his bicycle to work for about 10 years, Everson started researching what it would take to get the area turned into an actual trail the public could use.

“Then Katrina happened,” he said. “We were all displaced and this was the last thing on my, or anyone’s, mind.”

By 2006, he said, he was back in the city and one day was thinking of what he was doing the previous year before everything got crazy.

He remembered the hike and sent out an invitation for the “second annual” hike along the old rail line. Seventeen people showed up, and by the end of the hike had formed Friends of Lafitte Corridor.

Their goal was to get the corridor developed into a bike and walking trail.

New Orleans has put out bid requests for construction the first phase of the trail, which would connect from Louis Armstrong Park to Alexander Street near City Park, about 2.5 miles worth of trail.

Just up the river in Waggaman, Landry Camardelle has spent more than 50 years working to protect and improve a tract containing oak trees more than 150 years old.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Camardelle noticed a trailer and bulldozers on a piece of land where his children had played among old oak trees.

After learning of plans to tear down the trees and build houses, Camardelle went to the Parish Council and, with their help, got the land purchased for use as a park.

Since that time, Camardelle has led volunteers with the support of the parish, state and other funding sources to bring a walking trail, picnic areas, horseshoe pits and even a library to the park.

“Over the years, we go back and just keep trying to add on,” Camardelle said.

The third finalist, Subra, may live in New Iberia, but she’s traveled the state and country for years in her work in promoting environmental awareness and community involvement.

Since the 1970s, Subra has volunteered her time and expertise in helping communities understand technical environmental information and in advising community groups on how to be effective, whether the issue is cleaning up hazardous waste sites or getting soil samples analyzed.

“If you give the community a little bit of help,” she said, “then they can make decisions for their community based on that information.”

In addition to technical advice, such as understanding the hazards of certain chemicals, Subra gives guidance to community activists on how to get their points across at public hearings and how to work through government processes.

Her first work with communities dealt with oil field wastes in the 1970s on the western side of the state and continues today where she is working with issues involving the Bayou Corne sinkhole and monitoring shale oil and gas activity in Texas.