Denham Springs — Plans for a new nature park on the banks of the Amite River began to crystallize last week when an engineering firm presented a preliminary map to the Denham Springs City Council.
The design identifies 13 areas where primitive campsites can be located and about 75 lots suitable for recreational vehicles. Several miles of spur and loop trails are included in the plans.
The proposed park is situated on 51 acres between 4-H Club Road and the river on land owned by the city of Denham Springs but south of the municipal limits.
With a specific plan, the city can seek grant funding next year when a new application season opens, said engineer Eddie Aydell, who drew up the designs.
Denham Springs leaders requested $100,000 from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program for Louisiana last year, but it was denied. Mayor Gerard Landry said the application may have been late and the plans too underdeveloped. Before the new site plan was released, the city hadn’t even officially determined the park’s boundaries, which run about a mile from river to road and approximately 400 feet across.
Landry expects the city will try for the trails grant again in 2016 now that it has a more concrete plan.
“We’re still dreaming,” Landry said.
Construction timelines, exact amenities, even the day-to-day operations of the park, will all depend on money and what kind of state and federal financial assistance the city can scare up.
Officials were drawn to the idea of a park because Denham Springs has no public boat launches on the Amite. Aydell believes a road to the river, a launch site and a few nature trails would be the most likely features to lead the construction.
If funding comes through, work could begin in 2017, and the park could open by the year’s end, he said.
Landry said there’s a good chance the city will partner in some way with a private company such as an RV park operator to run the site.
One of the major findings of the preliminary plan was the high ground on the property suitable for RV camping.
“This is your money spot,” said Councilwoman Lori Lamm-Williams, as she pointed to the campgrounds recently.
However, city leaders have said they haven’t yet decided what kind of rates will be charged.
There are also a few blank spots on the map that have yet to be dedicated.
City leaders have floated ideas such as a fishing pier, educational building, gift shop, welcome center, canoe rental site and playground.
For Lamm-Williams, who has been advocating for a riverside public space for years, the reveal of the new plans came as a shot in the arm.
“I want this so bad,” she said.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.