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Editorial: Getting people, businesses back into Cameron Parish

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:08 PM

Borrowing a similar ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ line, ‘‘If They Build it, Will People Return to Cameron Parish?’’

That’s the salient question as the Cameron Parish Police Jury and West Cameron Harbor and Terminal District underwrite studies about whether current and former parish residents want new development and a feasibility study on such plans.

The SmithGroupJJR, a Detroit-based architectural and engineering company, presented last week a concept for development around the Courthouse Square and on Monkey Island. The study was launched by Cameron Answers, a nonprofit group formed to revitalize public interest in the parish and to spur economic development.

The lower part of the parish has been reeling since Hurricanes Rita and Ike delivered a one-two punch. Some lower Cameron Parish residents rebuilt after Rita’s storm surge washed away or inundated their homes in 2005, but Ike’s stronger surge and devastation in 2008 was too much for many of the most loyal Cameron Parish residents.

To wit, when they rebuilt, it was either north of the Intracoastal Waterway or in southern Calcasieu Parish. The parish lost nearly one-third of its population between the 2000 and 2010 Census, with an estimated 6,702 residents in the parish in 2012, according to the United States Census Bureau.

So how do you get them back?

Ed Freer, a Smith GroupJJR urban planner, touted an “eco-residential” area by rebuilding cheniers and putting homes or offices inside of them. He also promoted making Monkey Island a destination facility for oil and gas industry that would include large meeting rooms that could host a multitude of events.

Freer said a bridge or ferry would be necessary to provide access to the island and raised the idea of using “floating restaurants” on barges that could be moved if another hurricane threatened the area. A bridge to Monkey Island has been on Cameron Parish’s wish list for decades.

However, his comment about not putting a building on stilts may indicate a fundamental misunderstanding about federal requirements to build at elevation, a requirement that will make construction more expensive and hence hinder development.

Cost of insurance is another daunting hurdle in many plans for the lower part of the parish.

Southwest Louisiana residents should take heart that the good folks of Cameron Parish are, much like following the tragedy of Hurricane Audrey in 1957, not willing to surrender to the whims of Mother Nature.

Certainly, public help like tax incentives can make development more attractive. However, it will be up to private developers to weigh the risk and rewards and ultimately decide whether to invest in lower Cameron Parish.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

Posted By: Warren On: 10/31/2013

Title: Monkey Island is an historical battleground...

I hope that future development is sympathetic to the sacredness of "Monkey Island" as it was the location of the Confederate victory at the "Battle of Calcasieu Pass" on May 6, 1864 nearly 150 years ago.
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