April 19, 2022

Proposed Revitalization of Lake Charles Region

Proposed Revitalization of Lake Charles Region

With long-term recovery aid from the federal government on the way to the city of Lake Charles, many are looking to revitalize the storm-stricken area with projects that rebuild the community stronger and better than it was before, according to this article from The Advocate.

Mike Nodier, the head of Polaris Engineering in Lake Charles, has a plan to revitalize the city of Lake Charles and have its community bounce back from the devastating, long-lasting damages accrued by Hurricane Laura and other storms. The plan in question is Nodier’s Bayou Greenbelt Plan which would connect a sprawling series of bayous and canals in Lake Charles via a 23-mile loop with a pathway alongside it. The ground-level pathway sitting beside the looping waterway would allow for kayakers, bikers, and walkers to all enjoy recreational activities in Lake Charles, a community known for its water-facing facilities.

Although the possibility of building it could help to improve the water drainage of the flood-prone Lake Charles, Nodier’s Greenbelt Plan is just one of a few ideas being considered by local officials who would like to see the region turn a corner from a string of natural disasters. Another proposal is to revitalize and further develop the city’s lakefront, which is a plan that’s been gaining some noticeable traction in recent weeks.

Mike Nodier expressed his inception of the Bayou Greenbelt Plan after assessing the already existing landscape of the area. He said, “we have so many natural resources here that kind of center around water — one of the reasons I came here. Let’s exploit what we’ve got. Let’s make do with what we have. And so that was the genesis of this idea.”

While many plans and proposals are floating around to improve the sustainability of the city, Lake Charles and the surrounding region are still feeling “staggered” by the effects of not only Hurricane Laura, but also three other weather disasters as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these successive events have weighed heavily upon rebuilding efforts that the city has started at various stages along the way.

Furthermore, it’s now known that both Hurricane Laura and Delta have had tremendous impacts on the region’s population, according to the recently-released population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The 2021 data showed that the Lake Charles-adjacent region had some of the steepest declines in population in the nation.

In fact, when their population decreases are combined, both Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes had seen the biggest percentage decrease among metropolitan areas in the entire country. Cameron Parish’s population dropped by about 10% and fell to approximately 5,080, and Calcasieu Parish fell by a percentage of 5.3% to 205,282 people total. This news was especially devastating to Calcasieu Parish, as their communities had been growing steadily in size prior to the storms striking the area.

The greater Lake Charles region has been known for its chemical plants and energy production, which have been both beneficial in boosting the economy and detrimental in that they have polluted the water and air quality of the city. It’s because of these negative effects on the water and air quality that have motivated community leaders and city officials to emphasize quality-of-life improvements in the ongoing rebuilding process.

The director of the H.C. Drew Center for Business and Economic Analysis at McNeese State University, Dan Groft, relayed to The Advocate that the proposed projects will help to bring people back to the area and retain them in the region, thus helping the economy in turn. Groft had said, “we need to get the residents back and keep residents that are here. That will be crucial to the economic health of the region in the long-term.” Hopefully, the coming years will see the Lake Charles region bounce back in its various industries, despite the string of disasters that have stood in its way recently.

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