Rapid growth in Moss Bluff

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Calcasieu Parish officials have focused more on providing adequate infrastructure and utilities for residents in Ward 1, an

area that has steadily grown over the last few decades.

District 1 Police Juror Shannon Spell represents part of Ward 1, which includes Moss Bluff and Gillis. He said the growth

“has put a strain on infrastructure in that community.”

“In my opinion, the infrastructure has not kept up with that growth,” Spell said.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the population of Ward 1 went from 10,126 in 1980 to 19,428 in 2010. The Moss Bluff-Gillis

area grew by 57 percent between 1990 and 2000 — which Bryan Beam, the parish’s administrator, said was more than any other

unincorporated area of the parish.

“A lot of folks want to live there, but they experience the challenge that comes with growth,” he said. “We’re seeing more

and more of those types of problems. It’s very much akin to a city even though they remain unincorporated.”

Since 1994, Ward 1 has seen continued permits for new residences, manufactured homes and commercial/light industrial. Ward

1 has also seen an average of nearly four subdivisions accepted each year from 1994 through 2011.

Improvements

Spell said the Police Jury and the parish’s special service districts within Ward 1 have worked for several years to prepare

communities for growth.

“In the past, things were more reactive

(than) proactive,” he said. “Services across the board have had to grow

into new responsibilities.

We’re behind, but we’re taking strides to accomplish that goal.”

One recent effort is the new bridge on North Perkins Ferry Road, which opened in July. It is part of a three-phase project

to improve drainage for neighborhoods in the area. Spell said it took three years before work began on the project.

“Sometimes it’s slow going, but if you have a plan and you stick to it, you can make a difference,” he said.

Spell said Community Center and Playground District 4 of Ward 1 is looking to expand its recreation facilities, instead of

just maintaining them.

Spell said Fire Protection District 1 of Ward 1 has two full-time-staffed fire stations in Moss Bluff, along with several

satellite stations. He said these facilities help maintain insurance ratings and will hopefully improve them over time.

Spell said the Waterworks District in Ward 1 has grown from simply distributing water to homes to providing fire hydrants

and supplying for fire protection.

Missing link

Spell said Ward 1 is not the only area in the parish that will experience growing pains.

“The problems we’re having now will

occur in Carlyss, south Lake Charles and LeBleu Settlement,” he said.

“All these communities

are different, but they all have a lot in common when it comes to

infrastructure and growth and keeping up with those issues.”

Spell said the “big missing link” to encouraging businesses to invest in those areas is sewer.

“You’re not only dealing with public safety, but also economic development,” he said. “We’re getting to a point where your

unincorporated areas are urbanizing. There’s water, fire protection and drainage in most areas, but sewer is not.”

‘Bedroom community’

Joe Kennison has lived in Moss Bluff since 1998. While he initially moved there with his wife to be closer to her family,

he said they have stayed largely because the area still feels like a “bedroom community.”

“It’s quiet; it has that country feel, but it is still close enough to town,” Kennison said. “A lot of our closest friends

are our neighbors.”

Pam Dibbley moved into a home on 40 acres in Moss Bluff in 1978. She said she has embraced the growth and the improved services

that come along with it.

“When we moved, it was dirt roads and gravel,” Dibbley said. “Now it’s all paved; that’s been a blessing.”

Dibbley said the infrastructure has made travel within Ward 1 easier.

“Back then, you couldn’t get from one place to another rationally,” she said. “The subdivisions were placed anywhere, and

infrastructure wasn’t there. There’s a handle on it now.”

Dibbley said the schools in Ward 1 provided a high-quality education for her children and are a big reason people move into

the community.

Kennison said he believes officials who represent Ward 1 have kept up with the growing population over the years.

“There’s been some bumps in the road, but that’s to be expected,” he said. “The North Perkins (bridge project) was a little

bit of an inconvenience, but obviously it was a necessity for people who needed drainage.”

Even with the growth, Kennison said the area has not seen many chain restaurants. He said this is because Ward 1 is not tied

in with municipal sewer systems and that companies don’t want to invest in water treatment facilities.

“It would be nice to have those restaurants here, instead of us having to drive into town,” he said. “But it’s a small price

to pay to live in a quiet community.”