Better drainage, walking paths and mental health services are among the priorities identified in a long-term recovery plan for Denham Springs, the city in Livingston Parish where nearly three-quarters of the structures flooded in August 2016.
The plan, which the city council signed off on Tuesday night, lists priorities and projects identified after a series of community meetings and interviews with local stakeholders. In all, the plan says it reflects the input of more that 1,000 people.
When days of heavy rain flooded Denham Springs in August 2016, the city had no written emergency plan to follow.
It was developed in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is helping the city implement the National Disaster Recovery Framework.
"Recovery will not happen overnight," Mayor Gerard Landry wrote in a letter included in the plan. "But rest assured we will rebuild stronger and better. As we continue implementing this plan, I urge those who can assist to please step forward."
The plan is intended to help guide the city to achieve its vision of becoming a "family-focused, well-connected, clean, safe, active and resilient community."
Among the city's aspirations, according to the plan, are to become a tourist destination, to improve health services for residents, create safe walking and driving environments, improve drainage and build attractive, flood-resilient mixed use development.
The plan identifies 28 issues for the city to tackle, including outdated zoning and regulations, the lack of an emergency plan, abandoned houses, a shortage of affordable housing, the long-term decline of Florida Boulevard and a lack of pedestrian and bike paths.
The plan spells out some concrete projects and funding sources to pay to get them done. The city has started work on some of the projects.
DENHAM SPRINGS — The city will hold a second community open house Thursday, July 13, to get residents' ideas and hopes for the future of their…
"We’re getting these ideas that weren’t there before, much less before the flood," said Jeanette Clark, Denham Springs community recovery coordinator. "Now, we’re like, let’s shoot for the sky. Let’s see what we can get."
One project is to develop a citywide drainage master plan, which would guide infrastructure improvements that could reduce flooding. A second project in the flood recovery category is to make critical city buildings more resilient by rebuilding them in less flood-prone areas or in ways that limit the potential for flood damage.
One idea floated in the plan under the heading of "disaster resilience projects" is to build a community center that could double as a shelter and a Boys and Girls Club. The city has already submitted an application to the organization, Clark said. Also in that part of the plan would be to attract more health and mental health services.
The third category of project is community development. One high-priority item is to revitalize the historic Main Street and antique district with trees, lighting and possibly a special tax incentive to attract more businesses. The plan also calls for adding safe places to walk and bike, as well as collecting data on dangerous intersections.
Clark is encouraging people to follow the email newsletter and Facebook page associated with the recovery group called Denham Strong. People can learn from those resources about upcoming meetings and projects and how they can get involved in helping with the city's efforts to rebuild from the 2016 flood.
Denham Springs residents gathered Saturday for Denham Strong, a party for those who survived the August flood of 2016.
"We're going to need to know, from the community, you want this, but what exactly do you mean by this?" she said. "This community, when it comes to getting things done, they'll show up."
A full version of the plan can be found at www.denhamstrong.com.