Seventeen years after its first segment was opened, the Tammany Trace continues to evolve.
A handful of St. Tammany Parish officials gathered in the stifling late-morning heat Monday to mark the latest amenity on the iconic recreational trail that cuts across the parish: the new trailhead at Bayou Lacombe.
The trailhead, which features public restrooms, water fountains and a platform to view the bayou and surrounding marsh, also includes a new bridge tender's office. The office is staffed from sunrise to sunset seven days a week with a Tammany Trace employee who raises and lowers the drawbridge for marine traffic on Bayou Lacombe. The bridge stays in the up position overnight.
The new trailhead, just a block or so west of South Oaklawn Drive, cost $255,657 and was completed in July. It was built by McDonald Construction of Slidell.
The state Department of Transportation and Development covered 90 percent of the cost through a grant. The parish footed the other 10 percent.
The trailhead will provide another location "where citizens can rest and view the beauty of our parish," St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis said before snipping the ceremonial ribbon.
Davis said the new trailhead is part of the continuous growth of the Tammany Trace, which opened its first 8.5-mile segment between Mandeville and Abita Springs 17 years ago.
"It will continue to change," Davis said of the trace, which last year had more than 300,000 runners, walkers and horseback riders. "We have big dreams of inter-connecting to a lot of locations."
Davis said the parish has cobbled money from a variety of sources -- including grants, franchise fees and funds raised by the Tammany Trace Foundation -- to underwrite the improvements. He said routine maintenance of the asphalt trail is handled by the parish's Public Works Department.
The next phase of the trace will be connecting the Slidell trailhead to Camp Salmen and to Heritage Park. Those phases should open soon, Davis said, completing the 31-mile trace that stretches from Slidell to Mandeville and then north through Abita Springs and into downtown Covington.
For more information, visit the Tammany Trace's website at www.tammanytrace.org.