A feasibility study that is designed to protect and restore Southwest Louisiana’s coastline could be finished next year, nearly three years past its originally anticipated deadline, a state coastal official said Tuesday. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2013 10:10 PM
A hotel, a new public beach, a marina and a shopping center are some of the projects being proposed by Cameron Answers, a nonprofit group interested in revitalizing the hurricane-ravaged parish.
Board members for the group, formed in 2009, are Robert Kidder, Laura Leach, Hunter Lundy, Jennifer Jones, David Richard and Glenn Alexander. Several members presented the concept to the Cameron Police Jury earlier this month.
Kidder, the group’s project director, said building amenities that Cameron has lacked since being devastated by Hurricanes Rita and Ike may entice people to move back. But they first need to find out if enough people are interested before spending money on those projects.
“There are things that Cameron Parish can accomplish,” he said. “The question is, do they want to accomplish it? Is anyone interested in coming back down to Cameron?”
Kidder said they asked the Police Jury to fund several research projects at an estimated cost of $151,000. They include a consumer study, an economic impact study, a public marina consumer feasibility study and incorporating an economic feasibility study by the West Cameron Port.
Police Jury President Darryl Farque said he supports funding the research work and believes other police jurors will agree. He said the idea is a good contrast to the port’s study that will focus on industrial development.
“It’s got to be done regardless,” Farque said. “I don’t think a study has ever been done on a smaller scale.”
Kidder said the research could be completed in about three months.
Kidder said the group is interested in developing the projects “on a piece of state land near the (Calcasieu) Ship Channel” and some additional privately owned property. The Cameron Pilot reported that Cameron Answers wants the “Police Jury to help transfer the lease on the Jetty Pier Park from the state to their control.” The park “is costing the parish about $72,000 a year to operate.”
EllRay Henry, whose family has owned the property since the late 1800s, said they are interested in working with Cameron Answers. He said the group has “some fresh and different ideas than what we were used to.”
“Most of the business we did were with different industries,” Henry said. “It’s a different slant on things. We realize we have to diversify and make changes to succeed.”
According to Cameron Answers’ website, the marina would have a “private craft harbor, fuel depot, ice house, dry storage, dockage for commercial fishermen, and wharf for them to sell their catch fresh off the boat.”
Kidder said the “dual-purpose” marina would be “similar in scope, but not in size” to Gulfport Small Craft Harbor in Gulfport, Miss., that was built after Hurricane Katrina.
“We want it to be a smaller harbor, but also have a commercial fishing side to it,” he said. “Our wild guess is doing 60 slips or so.”
Kidder said the group would interview people who have fishing licenses, including those who live outside Southwest Louisiana, to find out if they would visit a marina in Cameron.
Leach said the beach area could also be used for bird watching and that the plan could bring new businesses to the parish.
“This is a parish and a city that is critical to progress of the state and our nation,” she said.
Henry, along with Parish Administrator Tina Horn, said that paying for a project of this scale is the biggest challenge.
“There was a lot of thought put into it,” Horn said. “But funding — that really is the bottom line.”
Farque said the parish’s inflated insurance rates have prevented people from rebuilding in Cameron. About 6,730 people were living in Cameron Parish in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There were nearly 10,000 people living in the parish in 2000.
“People can’t afford to build,” Farque said. “That’s the major deal we have here.”
Henry said people would return to Cameron if there were more job opportunities. He said the concept could help jump-start that movement.
“With two storms, a lot of people moved away,” he said. “If they had a reason for coming back, I’m sure they would.”
Kidder said they will further discuss the issue at the Police Jury’s 5 p.m. agenda meeting Wednesday.
Initiatives listed on the website of Cameron Answers:
• Build a marina consisting of private craft harbor, fuel depot, ice house, dry storage, dockage for commercial fishermen, and wharf for them to sell their catch fresh off the boat.
• Build a hotel and restaurant to attract visitors, small meetings, and new businesses. Consider beach condominiums and houseboat/floating rental units.
• Construct a new public beach, event greenspace and conservation areas with birding towers, boardwalks, trails, including the historical Gulf Biologic Station.
• On our site, create for-lease retail space such as bait shop, fast food, fishing supplies, beach apparel to serve visitors and fishermen.
• Develop a small shopping site at intersection of 27/82 and Davis Road with c-store, grocery, pharmacy, entertainment, other retail so residents aren’t forced out of town day-to-day.
• Make the area attractive to locate new industry. Include a strategic plan for building workforce housing.
• Create a blueprint presentation for presenting our findings to citizens, funders and business prospects.
• Organize and execute a strategy for directing more State and Federal funding to Cameron to accomplish our vision.
• Follow the leads and funding sources of the Louisiana CPRA 2012 Coastal Master Plan in order to take advantage of the elements suited to Cameron.
• Take advantage of our location and natural resources. Use them as a unique attraction to visitors and businesses.Online: www.cameronanswers.com.