Artist rendering of the Plaquemine Riverfront Recreational Trail


PLAQUEMINE — Mayor Ed Reeves said he won't make the mistake that got West Baton Rouge Parish tangled up in a legal battle related to ongoing efforts to build a proposed walking and bike trail along the Mississippi River front near downtown. 

Reeves said he'll need consent from two landowners with properties along parts of the levee that will make up the proposed trail before the city can move forward with fully implementing its multiphased plan. 

It's a detail he might have overlooked had it not been for the lawsuit by West Baton Rouge Parish against landowners there who are disputing the parish's rights to build a walking and bike trail along their levee-fronted properties. 

"As a result of that West Baton Rouge debacle, I had (our lawyer) do an abstract to determine if there were any landowners along the levee system here," Reeves said. "We found two, but I don't think we're going to have any problems with them."

Reeves wouldn't specifically name the property owners but said one was a local church and the other a prominent local family. 

"I haven't approached them yet. But I'm going to do it on the front end," he said. "We're about a year or so out before I need to."

Plaquemine has a multitiered plan gestating, the first phase of which involves building a trail landing adjacent to the Plaquemine Lock Historic Site and a 1.3-mile walking and bike trail that will extend in both directions of the landing. Extensions of the walking/bike trail are included in future phases, with the trail set to connect to the north Plaquemine park set for renovations this year. 

Similar efforts to build an ambitious recreational amenity in West Baton Rouge Parish have become marred by controversy when the parish tried to seek legal action against several property owners who refused to let contractors onto their levee-abutted properties to complete a 5-mile trail stretching along the Mississippi levee south of the Intracoastal Waterway. 

The landowners have argued the parish never gained their permission to build part of the trail along their property. And conflicting state and legal opinions over the rights of property owners with land that makes up levee systems means the dispute likely will be decided in court. 

"I feel good because I only have two to deal with," Reeves said about the Plaquemine levee project. "I'm going to talk to them this year because I want them to know." 

First, Reeves is awaiting final word that the city secured the grant money to start the first phase of the project, estimated to cost about $2 million. 

"We're going to be awarded the grant sometime in January," he said. "Then we'll be ready to break ground." 

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.