GONZALES — In the coming months, the National Park Service will be looking to community groups and residents for their ideas on a citywide path to make Gonzales a walkable community.

And one for bicyclists as well.

"We want to get the most comprehensive plan we can develop," Deirdre Hewitt, with the National Park Service, told members of the Gonzales Recreation Commission at their meeting Wednesday.

Gonzales officials learned about the Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program after last year's flood, City Engineer Jackie Baumann has said.

Gonzales qualified for the Park Service program because of the city's master plan, adopted in 2015, which calls for the development of walkable neighborhoods.

"Our goal is to take the trails along the bayou and sidewalks that are accessible and to figure out how to connect them and make them better," Baumann said Wednesday.

City officials envision a plan that would connect schools, ball fields, parks, libraries and business areas.

Gonzales already has walking trails along two waterways that run through the city, Bayou Francois and New River; those trails would be incorporated into the walking path. 

Hewitt said representatives of local agencies, organizations and interest groups, such as the school district, business community and neighborhoods, will be invited to a meeting next month to begin the planning process.

Next will come public meetings, then the National Park Service will return with a plan for more input, said Hewitt, the branch chief of the Southeast Regional Office of the Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

The park service never wants  to design a plan "that people will not use or that they don't want," Hewitt said.

"We make sure the public is involved," Hewitt said. "We're looking for input on where new sidewalks should be, where new trails should be, what areas need to be connected. 

"We want people to get out walking and moving and having a great pedestrian plan," she said.

Elements of the citywide path could include things like trails that are 6 to 12 feet wide and can accommodate walkers, runners and bicyclists, as well as striped bike lanes on city streets, Hewitt said.

The Park Service will pay for and provide staff for the design work. Gonzales will have to find other funding sources to build the path, Baumann said. 

"I'm very excited about this," Tracy Browning, chair of the city's Recreation Commission and executive director of the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission, said Wednesday. "This is one of the things Ascension Parish is lacking: trails and biking paths." 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.