A three-year dispute continues between owners of about 950 acres in Devil’s Swamp and the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission over access to that property.
The matter is in litigation before 19th Judicial District Judge R. Michael Caldwell, and port officials declined to discuss the matter when owners made an appearance at a commission meeting last week.
Caldwell already has granted the port a summary judgment Aug. 27 on the issue of whether Baton Rouge Barge Terminal Road is private. It is private, the judge ruled.
The case remains pending, however. No decision has been made as to whether owners of hunting properties have a right to access the terminal road from Airline Highway at the southern end of adjoining tracts. That location is several miles north of Southern University.
Cousins Camille E. Cazedessus Jr., of Baton Rouge, and M.A. “Mac” Cazedessus, of Clinton, appeared before the commission last week to ask for access to the property by way of Baton Rouge Barge Terminal Road from U.S. 61.
Port Executive Director Jay Hardman immediately noted the cousins are plaintiffs in a civil suit that remains unresolved. Hardman advised commissioners not to answer questions from the cousins or any other plaintiffs in the case.
Barry Wilkinson, the port’s director of corporate and legal affairs, agreed with Hardman’s stance.
Commissioners then adjourned their meeting.
Camille Cazedessus later said the dispute is over the port’s decision in February 2011 to deny him, Mac Cazedessus, other relatives and game hunters access to the barge terminal road.
Despite the judge’s recent ruling, Mac Cazedessus insisted the road “is not a private road. It has never been a private road.”
Since 2011, Camille Cazedessus said, the port’s denial of access to the road has cost him and other owners more than $60,000 in income from hunting leases.
Property owners and their hunting clients had been driving on the terminal road — past port tenants — to the location nearest their hunting acreage for decades.
In court records, port attorney Sarah K. Weissman said someone placed materials on two sections of train tracks serving port property in 2011.
Camille Cazedessus said he and others placed gravel between the rails so that pickup trucks and other vehicles could cross the tracks to get to hunting leases. He said he and others placed wooden beams between the rails at another location for the same purpose.
Had port officials not removed the obstructions, port attorney Weissman said in court filings, they would have rendered “the train tracks entirely inoperable.”
Camille Cazedessus said neither the gravel nor the beams threatened train safety.
“We want to hunt,” Camille Cazedessus said. “Big deal.”
Wilkinson and Hardman declined to discuss the civil suit.
“We’ll just let the court decide,” Hardman said.
Port attorneys say in court records that the Cazedessus cousins and other plaintiffs have access to their property from the north by way of Brooklawn Road.
Camille Cazedessus said that access point features no road through the swampy, forested area near the Mississippi River.
“We would have 3 miles of jungle to get through,” Camille Cazedessus said.