New website aims to promote St. Tammany’s outdoor attractions _lowres

Advocate photo provided by Andrew Canulette -- Pictured at the launch of the Tammany Trails partnership on Friday at Fontainebleau State Park are, from left, Assistant Secreatary of State Parks Robert Barham, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon, and Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

St. Tammany Parish residents know it has far more to offer than its proximity to New Orleans. The parish boasts state parks, national wildlife refuges and scenic trails and waterways.

What it has lacked was a handy central source of information about those outdoor opportunities. That changed Friday with the launch of tammanytrails.org, a new website that aims to provide a single location for people interested in getting active in St. Tammany’s outdoors.

A partnership among local, state and federal agencies, the site promotes greenways, which are land-based trails, and blueways, or water-based routes, regardless of what agency maintains them.

Parish President Pat Brister unveiled the initiative Friday at Fontainebleau State Park, joined by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon and Robert Barham, assistant secretary for state parks.

Officials said the website will increase tourism and help to conserve natural resources.

“Signage, mapping and our web presence at tammany trails.org will make any trail in our parish, whether blue or green, easy to locate and navigate,” Brister said.

The Tammany Trails concept was born two years ago, according to Ronnie Simpson, a Brister spokesman.

The Tammany Trace attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, he said, and the parish wanted to find ways to increase the use of its other outdoor assets.

The website provides an inventory of what’s available, with maps of places to walk, waterways to paddle and places to park, Simpson said.

“If you’re interested in kayaking on Bayou Lacombe, for instance, it will show you where you can put in on the bayou,” he said.

Besides the parish, which will maintain the website, other agencies involved are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana State Parks, the Northlake Nature Center, the Land Trust for Louisiana, the Nature Conservancy, the Tammany Trace Foundation and St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 1.

Slidell, Covington, Mandeville, Abita Springs and Pearl River also are included.

The list of partners will grow as information is added to the site, Simpson said. Each group will be able to input its own information and change it as needed.

Doing a better job of letting people know what’s available will mean greater use, Nungesser said. “We just have to make sure ... as we create additional revenues, that we’ll be able to keep them to enhance the visitor experience and to enhance and keep these beautiful parks up,” he said.

Rick Wilke, a board member with the Northlake Nature Center and the Land Trust for Louisiana, said being included on the site will help amplify the cause of conservation.

“It’s so much easier to just go to a website where you can find information on, for example, the Three Rivers Blueway we’ve been working on,” he said.

“You can find it, know where it is, get a map of it and hopefully in the future be able to download an audio tour of it with GPS links or something like that.”

An out-of-towner who doesn’t know about that waterway can find it with a click and discover a lot more about other blueways, greenways, trails and playgrounds, he said.

Signs marking area trails as participants in Tammany Trails will be installed in the near future. Information will continue to be collected for use on the website.