Residents give input on master plan for hurricane recovery
Published 8:30 pm Monday, November 15, 2021
Residents from Cameron Parish, Sulphur, Vinton and other nearby cities gathered at the West-Cal Event Center in Sulphur Monday to share how they would like to see the region grow and improve over the next 50 years.
The event was the first of three listening workshops scheduled this week as part of the Just Imagine SWLA 50-year master resilience plan for Calcasieu and Cameron parishes. A second workshop is set for 6-8 p.m. today at the Lake Charles Civic Center, with the third workshop scheduled 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at Grand Lake High School, 1039 La. 384.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana and its Pittsburgh-based consultant team in the planning effort, Urban Design Associates, hosted the listening workshop.
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Along with the long-term goals and dreams, residents also discussed what they love about their community, the problems that existed before Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and the hurdles they are facing now.
Residents mentioned the need to make Southwest Louisiana a place where young people want to stay. The public also called for more accessible sidewalks and bicycle routes, growing the middle class, appreciating local businesses, a business incubator in the Sulphur area, a thriving downtown district and getting government agencies to work together better.
Residents also said there is a lack of public transportation, an ongoing litter problem and a need for more economic incentives for businesses. They also called for more entertainment options to make the region a destination for tourists.
Several residents said the community’s willingness to serve in the face of disasters was one of its greatest assets, along with its culture, food and history.
Some problems that existed before Hurricanes Laura and Delta included infrastructure, the Interstate 10-Calcasieu River bridge, law enforcement being short handed, limited internet providers and a lack of affordable housing.
The public mentioned a smaller workforce as one of the largest post-storm hurdles, along with limited contractors, high prices for supplies and increasing flood insurance premiums. Other issues included a need to address mental health for those struggling after the hurricanes.
The 50-year master planning effort was made possible through a $2.5 million gift from Angel and David Filo to the Community Foundation of SWLA. Sara Judson, Community Foundation SWLA president/CEO, said public participation is crucial in seeing their long-term visions through.
“We want to hear from you,” she said. “This is our time to create, imagine and have a vision for the future.”
Megan O’Hara, principal with Urban Design Associates, said the listening workshops are the first phase of the master planning effort. The second phase, testing ideas for 10 catalytic projects, will start in February 2022. The feasibility of those ideas would be tested, and strategies would be decided to help the community achieve those goals in May 2022.
The meetings are also live streamed on the Just Imagine SWLA Facebook page. To find out more on the planning effort, visit JustImagineSWLA.org.