The famous phrase is “bridge to nowhere,” but a bridge is just what’s necessary for BREC’S Wards Creek bike and hiking trail to go somewhere.
The Wards Creek trail has been in the works for several years and is supposed to stretch more than two miles from the Mall of Louisiana to Siegen Lane.
But the trail in its current form has an anticlimactic ending on the banks of the creek, with no bridge providing a connection between Bluebonnet Boulevard and Siegen Lane. Bicyclists or walkers who take the smoothly paved trail path from the mall can see the paved portion on the other side. They just can’t get to it. So, they have to turn back.
However, a remedy finally appears to be right around the corner.
After an unsuccessful first try, bridge construction is expected to commence within the next year, according to BREC officials. They put the project out for rebid on Friday. Once a company is chosen, its workers will have 231 days to complete the bridge.
The bridge has been a major delay in the trail’s completion since initial plans to build it fell through. In 2012, BREC accepted a company’s bid to begin work on the bridge, which turned out to be more complicated than anticipated.
The complications led to a dispute over the costs, and BREC was forced to rebid the project, according to Communications Director Cheryl Michelet. Aside from the bridge, Michelet said, the rest of the trail was finished in late spring, and many people already are walking and biking on it.
BREC hosted a family Bike Hike on Saturday along the Wards Creek trail. The trail’s dead-end forced bikers who started from the mall to turn back around and bike another mile back instead of carrying on their bike ride past the creek.
The Wards Creek trail is only the first phase in BREC’s plans for a loop of more than seven miles that will connect Essen Lane, the Perkins Road Park, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU’s Rural Life Museum and Perkins Rowe.
Baton Rouge residents have pushed recently for more walkability and bikeability throughout the city, taking their complaints to both BREC and city government.
“People have been saying, ‘We now have a lot of trails that just dead end.’ How do we connect those?” said Stephen Hammond, of the Wallace Roberts & Todd planning firm, at a meeting a few months ago when BREC’s trails plans were presented.
Michelet said the Wards Creek trail was BREC’s first attempt to create a trail that was not part of one of the parks, which is part of the reason why the trail has been long-delayed. In BREC’s recently approved 10-year strategic plan, many more possibilities for trails and connectivity are included.
The Wards Creek trail cost about $2 million, with half the money coming from taxpayers and the other half donated by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.