Editor’s note: Flood recovery was not the only focus of Denham Strong in 2018. In its progress report, the group listed other projects involving community development.
DENHAM SPRINGS – Flood recovery and flood prevention projects were a large part of Denham Strong’s progress report for 2018. But many other projects also got attention last year, according to the report submitted to the Denham Springs City Council last week.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Jeanette Clark, community recovery coordinator, who oversees Denham Strong.
The volunteer group was tasked to develop short-term and long-term goals to help the city recover from the Great Flood of 2016 and improve the quality of life in Denham Springs.
“While many projects are in the planning phase, there has been movement on most of the projects,” Clark said.
Community development was one of three areas the progress report was divided into; the other two were flood recovery and disaster resiliency.
A total of 47 accomplishments were listed that completed projects or helped more projects forward.
There were 25 items listed under “ongoing” that are now underway to help projects more forward.
Finally, 27 items were listed under “future goals,” steps or actions that will come up in the future as the ongoing list is achieved.
Clark told the City Council that a kickoff meeting on creating a bicycle and pedestrian master plan was held in January and three public meetings are scheduled to get the public’ ideas. The meetings are scheduled for March 19, Aug. 6 and Oct. 15. The sites have not been selected yet, she said.
Denham Strong was awarded a grant to install countermeasures at seven of the highest crash areas on city roads in the city as part of improving street safety.
The proposal went to the Local Road Safety Program through the Louisiana Transportation Research Center’s Local Technical Assistance Program under the state Department of Transportation and Development.
Another accomplishment was helping to get the Denham Springs Historic District listed on the National Historic Register.
The group received a grant from the state Historic Preservation Office to survey historic structures and to assemble the application for the National Register. Signs were also installed on Interstate 12 to inform motorists the Historic District was nearby.
Work is underway to create a priority list of places in Denham Springs of historical importance to apply for Louisiana Historical Bronze signs. Clark said this project led to the discussion of the city putting up its own historical signs.
“We discussed that Pee Wee Day had a chili stand downtown,” Clark said, “and someone said we should put a marker there.” This would be an added attraction to shoppers and visitors looking for historical links in Denham Springs.
The group also is looking at the possibilities for creating a “Town Square” with City Hall in the Historic District.
Main Street Denham Springs, the force behind getting the National Historic District designation, is working with the Capital Region Planning Commission, Louisiana Economic Development, architect Rex Cabaniss, and real estate agent Nelson Sanchez, to create a revitalization plan that will build on a 10-year-old Main Street Action Plan.
Denham Springs Main Street also is establishing permanent exhibits at Old City Hall.
Community development also will help with economic development of the city, meaning more jobs for city residents and more services available locally.
The Florida Boulevard area west of Range Avenue was designated an Opportunity Zone. The next step is to get rules from the Internal Revenue Service on an Opportunity Zone, what it can offer a business and how it works.
As part of the revitalization of the Florida Boulevard corridor, CRPC submitted a proposal for federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields grant.
The proposal was not selected this year will be resubmitted at a later date.
A charrette is planned – “They throw that word around a lot,” Clark said – with Kansas State University and the Capital Region Planning Commission for the 11-acre tract that was the Delta Concrete business on Florida Boulevard, only two blocks from City Hall.
It is zoned industrial but is surrounded by residences, so the public’s input will be sought, Clark said.
The project is on hold due a change in staff at for Kansas State’s Technical Assistance to Brownfields program.
Enhance Farmers and Artisans Market -- Accomplishments
A proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to hire a market manager and marketing funds was not awarded. Denham Strong plans to apply again.
A future goal is to create a facility for Farmers Market with electricity, plumbing and shelter.
The National Park Service helped develop a Parks Plan, the Rotary Club of Livingston Parish will install a sign at Spring Park and purple martin bird houses were installed in Willow Woods Park.
Southern University is holding sustainable urban agriculture classes, one of the steps leading to the creation of a community garden behind the flooded City Hall.
Home Depot has agreed to help with supplies and 25 Girl Scout troops have committed time to build the community garden.
“We are looking forward to what 2019 will bring,” Clark said.
Denham Strong is still welcoming volunteers who want to help with individual projects. To get involved, email email@example.com.