By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – The long and winding 30-mile road of the Tammany Trace, coming from the Covington Trailhead all the way to Slidell’s Heritage Park, is still proving to be a daunting challenge.
However, the Slidell City Council has approved one more small leg of the Trace as it gets closer to the park by voting to spend $25,000 for a matching grant after the state approved an additional $97,453 for the project.
The Trace begins in Covington and runs through St. Tammany Parish cities and mainly through the piney woods on property that was previously a railroad track.
The Trace has been nationally recognized for its innovative system and great outdoors amenity for St. Tammany Parish, however, it has been 25 years since the idea was first conceived.
While the western parish ending has been finished for years, Slidell has been trying to get the Trace to make it all the way into Slidell, coming from its current end point on Neslo Road near Thompson Road.
The council approved a plan a year ago to bring the Trace down Garden Drive, then West Hall Avenue, turning right on Bayou Lane and making it to Heritage Park. However, that route has many challenges, such as a pair of bridges, not to mention tight, limited property to build the path.
The state originally approved $92,677 to bring the Trace down Garden Drive to Carroll Road, utilizing the “Share the Road” idea that keeps the Trace on the light traffic of that street. Once coming to Carroll Road there is a flashing light system to bring bike riders and walkers across that busy street, connecting to West Hall Avenue.
From there the Trace will now utilize the new $97,453 to turn sidewalk into a 12-foot wide “Share the Sidewalk” route that will get it 1,800 feet down West Hall to Westlawn Avenue.
Slidell City Planner Eric Lundin said the challenges become bigger from there as it needs to go 1.4 miles down West Hall Avenue to get to Bayou Lane, faced with two bridges over small waterways. Cost for that stretch is expected to be at least $1.7 million and Slidell is currently working on a state grant for funding.
“From Bayou Lane to Heritage Park will cost about $160,000 since we can build the Trace right along city property on the bayou side of the road,” Lundin said. “But the West Hall stretch has its challenges, especially when we get on the older streets. Sometimes when we dig into the ground we are finding cracked pipes and that means more cost and more work.”
The city put up a $25,000 matching total for the initial $92,677 before adding the latest $25,000 for the extra $97K from the state.
Lundin said it will take two months to bid and secure a contractor for the next stretch to Woodlawn Drive, with no specific timetable to get to Heritage Park as city officials wait for state money to come in.