DENHAM SPRINGS  After the flood of August 2016, city officials asked residents what they'd like to see as the city recovered and rebuilt. 

One priority was making Denham Springs a friendlier place for pedestrians and bikers. 

"You're taking your life into your hands in a lot of areas," City Councilman Jeff Wesley said of his experiences biking with his wife around the city. 

That could begin changing soon: The city is working on a a pair of projects that were on display for the first time last week.

A consulting firm is working under a grant to develop a walking-biking master plan for the city. And landscape architecture students from LSU are developing conceptual plans for more walkable streets, paths and parks. 

The master plan ultimately could serve as a guide for the city as it spends money on new infrastructure and applies for state and federal grants, said Kim Marousek, director of planning for the Capital Regional Planning Commission. 

"Ultimately, this will relate to a series of projects and priorities, as well as general policies that the communities want to build toward," Marousek said.

The regional planning commission facilitated a $100,000 federal grant, split between Denham Springs and Baker, to hire consultants to conduct the master plan studies.

Representatives from the consulting firm, as well as the LSU students, gathered March 18 at Healing Place Church to collect public feedback on early versions of their designs. 

Residents circled the room commenting on different maps and concept boards, weighing in on what they thought the city needs. 

Mike Sewell, of consulting firm Greshan Smith, showed a color-coded map that used data on housing density, car ownership and businesses, among other factors within Denham Springs.

"We want to connect types of facilities people want with destinations people want to get to," Sewell said. 

Residents made suggestions for businesses and paths they wanted to see, such as a bike route to connect the city to the Denham Springs-Walker Library on Eden Church Road.

The LSU project is more conceptual and is expected to result in a report delivered to the city later this year.

Landscape architecture students have been tasked with reimagining Denham Springs. They are producing two master plans, as well as designs for features like Spring Park and the flooded First Baptist Church, which is set to be demolished, said LSU Professor Brendan Harmon.

Josh Black, a student in the course, showed off a project that looks at, among other things, a pathway that would connect downtown to the Amite River. The path would weave from the Antique District to the planned amphitheater at the flooded City Hall to Spring Park then to a beach or boat launch on the river.

Residents also played with a physical model of the Antique District on North Range Avenue. They rearranged cardboard pieces shaped like trees, crosswalks, planters and stop signs to demonstrate friendlier ways to lay out the district of shops and restaurants that is also a commuter thoroughfare.

Dale Zuelke spent time arranging the pieces in a layout he liked with trees and planters. Zuelke said it would be nice to have more shade to protect from the harsh sun when shopping there.

Tina Aucoin said she would love see more bike paths through the city.

"We like to cycle, and we just don't have the place here," she said. 

City Recovery Coordinator Jeanette Clark said the city will take more public input on the bike-pedestrian master plan in August and October.


Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.