BREC recently completed a key part of its planned 13-mile network of walking trails and bike paths with a bridge across Ward's Creek that allows cyclists to bike from Siegen Lane to the Mall of Louisiana.
The key link came with construction of a new vehicular and pedestrian bridge near Ochsner's new medical complex and a half-mile extension that includes an outdoor fitness station.
"The bridge portions connects the north and south banks of Ward's Creek," said Kathy Stites, BREC's trails director. "It has been open since May for people to bike on and travel across."
The new bridge connects trails BREC has built since beginning construction of its $6.8 million health loop which will snake through the parish's Health District around the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, near the LSU Health System Surgical Center and Ochsner, continuing on a 1.5-mile path to Pecue Lane along Ward's Creek.
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The loop is part of BREC's Capital Area Pathways Project initiative which identified routes with goal of building a network of connecting trails and greenways throughout the parish.
BREC started the project in 2013, with paths in the initial phase overlaid north of Ward's Creek between Bluebonnet Boulevard and The Grove, and southbound from Siegen Lane Marketplace to Ochsner's new facility.
"There was a missing crossing for a number of years, which for different reasons, couldn't be built," said Reed Richard, BREC's Assistant Superintendent of System Planning.
Ochsner pitched in to help build the $300,000 bridge "because they needed it regardless of whether we had a (bicycle) path or not," he said.
BREC is primarily footing the bill for most of the loop, with supplements from federal grants earmarked for recreational trail use, Richard said.
Paths near Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Perkins Road park were completed in 2016.
Stites said construction on additional phases behind Our Lady of Lake Regional Medical Center to Dijon Drive are set to begin next year. Future phases will link to bike paths and lanes in Southdowns, then onward to the LSU Lakes and downtown Baton Rouge.
"Building this bridge and connecting the segment along Ward's Creek was significant; it pretty much doubled the length of trail you can ride continuously from Siegen Lane to Bluebonnet," Richard said. "These paved trails for bikes and pedestrians are the start of a much larger network."