Bayou Teche has been named the first “National Water Trail” in Louisiana, a designation that comes after focused efforts in recent years to nurture recreation on the waterway and improve its health, the National Park Service announced Wednesday.
“It’s a recognition of the work the community has done,” said Corita Waters, who helps coordinate the water trails program for the park service.
Bayou Teche stretches 135 miles through St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary parishes, starting in Port Barre and ending in Berwick.
The national designation was sought by the TECHE Project, a nonprofit group launched in 2009 that has spearheaded several projects to clean up the bayou and make it easier to access and enjoy the waterway.
TECHE Project Executive Director Conni Castille said the national park system’s designation could bring national attention, literally putting Bayou Teche on the map for tourists seeking a water adventure in south Louisiana.
“We hope it’s an economic generator for all the communities,” she said.
The designation, announced Wednesday, makes Bayou Teche one of 18 waterways in the National Water Trails system, which was launched in 2012.
“It’s a pretty elite group,” Castille said.
The news of the National Water Trails designation comes as the TECHE Project is preparing to install eight new floating docks along Bayou Teche, two in each of the four parishes the bayou flows through.
Castille said the docks are expected to be in place by the end of the year.
The group is also planning new bayou “trail head” in Breaux Bridge.
“It’s really perfect,” Castille said. “All the stars are lining up.”
Waters said that in addition to bring more attention to the bayou, the National Water Trails designation can boost chances for assistance and funding for future projects and give locals a chance to network with people in other communities involved in similar work.
“We are working to build a community among the water trail managers,” she said.