Bayou Teche canoe, kayak trail plans moving forward

Map of Bayou Teche
Map of Bayou Teche

Plans for a canoe and kayak trail along Bayou Teche are moving forward, with two meetings planned in January to give the public a chance to weigh in on the project.

The 134-mile Bayou Teche Paddle Trail will stretch from Port Barre to Patterson, passing through St. Landry, St. Mary, Iberia and St. Martin Parishes.

“There are multiple ways people can provide input on the paddle trail,” said Michael Martin, director of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Center for Louisiana Studies.

“One is to attend one of these meetings,” he said. “The meetings are designed to garner input from communities along the Teche where access sites were chosen.”

The Center for Louisiana Studies received an $83,447 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to fund the paddle trail project, which aims to boost recreational use of Bayou Teche.

“A main requirement of the grant was public input,” said Jennifer Guidry, assistant director at the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism.

M eetings will be Jan. 9 at New Iberia City Hall and Jan. 13 at Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville. Both meetings are at 6 p.m. Two prior meetings were in St. Landry and St. Mary parishes.

Martin said the meetings will give residents an opportunity to learn about eight proposed access sites along Bayou Teche and construction of the floating docks.

“One thing that we really want public input on is how people will be using these docks,” Martin said. “Will they just want to float up alongside? Will they want a slip where they can park their boat and get out with easier access?”

Improved signage along Bayou Teche, information kiosks and a paddler’s map are a part of the plan, said Trey Snyder, a Bayou Teche resident who lives outside of St. Martinville and helped spearhead planning the paddle trail project.

“The paddle trail plan is a five-year plan to improve access and improve non-motorized use of the bayou and showcase what we have here,” Snyder said.

He also said they hope to have the Bayou Teche Paddle Trail become a nationally recognized paddle trail by the National Park Service.

Public comments gathered from the meetings will be compiled in February to create a final plan, and new docks could be in place in 2014, Martin said.

“It is satisfying to move into the implementation stage,” Guidry said.

The Bayou Teche Paddle Trail will be managed by TECHE Project, in partnership with the Center for Louisiana Studies and the National Park Service.

Bayou Teche is already the site of an annual canoe, kayak and pirogue race along the entire length of the bayou.

The Tour du Teche race began in 2010 and starts each year on the first Friday in October.