SW La.’s 50-Year Resilience Master Plan Draft in Final Stages – American Press
Financial planner Danielle Nava is investing in Southwest Louisiana and wants to create an even better region in which her 2-year-old twin daughters can thrive.
“A lot of us still choose to live in southwest Louisiana,” she said. “Collectively, we all know the potential of Lake Charles and our region and the great thing about Just Imagine is that it transcends barriers and brings us all together to contribute to the future of our community.”
Nava is an Ambassador for Just Imagine SWLA, an opportunity led by the SWLA Community Foundation to infuse hurricane recovery efforts with a holistic vision for the wider region.
Following Hurricanes Laura and Delta in the fall of 2020, a $2.5 million gift from Angela and David Filo to the foundation enabled the creation of Just Imagine SWLA, a 50-year resilience plan for parishes in Calcasieu and Cameron – comprising 10 specific projects that will show the potential of the region and define strategies to implement them. Areas of focus for the master plan will be housing, infrastructure, economic development and other quality of life improvements that will positively impact the region for decades.
Nava is among 30 volunteer ambassadors — along with McDonald Carheel, president of Carheel Consulting, and Eloise Pruitt, professor of advanced placement psychology at Barbe and Sulfur High Schools — who gathered feedback from family, friends, clients, students , church members and others about what they would like to see to improve the community.
“Between online efforts and face-to-face public meetings, this has only gotten us so far,” said Jill Galmarini, director of civic initiatives for the SWLA Community Foundation. “In order to reach out to the community and really get into it, we needed our Ambassadors to go into their circles of influence and ask those same questions. They’ve been extremely helpful in finding out what the community wants so we can determine the 10 projects.
The project is in the final phase of seeking community feedback, with three public meetings scheduled for June 6-8.
“Fifty years ago, I’m sure there were a lot of people thinking about 50 years to come and what it might look like and they made sacrifices to give us the community we have today,” Carheel said. “For me, I felt responsible to do the same for our children, our grandchildren. I want to keep giving back. »
Pruitt said being an ambassador has also proven to be a teaching opportunity for her students.
“It was good to have the voices of young people involved because they are the future and we want them to stay here and start families here and prosper and thrive,” she said. “We also want them to be good stewards of the community.”
Pruitt said feedback from her students included a desire for more green space, parks and more activities — like a bowling alley at Sulfur, a return to ice rinks and more sidewalks.
Pruitt said his students are hopeful and excited about the role they are playing in the project.
“They see a vision coming for Lake Charles and they’re helping to bring about that change,” Pruitt said.
“None of these concepts are new, they’re just part of what makes a community great,” Nava said.
“Sustainability is also part of our responsibility because not all the ideas we get are new,” Carheel said. “Fifty years ago they had ice rinks and somewhere opposite we lost sight of that. When did we lose our way? We haven’t stopped building housing estates, why haven’t we thought of sidewalks? These young people are interested in the same things as us.
Nava said the project is more than a proposal.
“It’s happening,” she said. “Some of these projects will take 50 years, but some of them can be done now. I want my girls to have their faces in the sun while walking on a boardwalk, meet their friends on a skating rink and have all those nostalgic things to do I want them to be excited about staying here and have a culture that helps shape who they are too.
Galmarini said the 10 projects are Coastal Hazard Reduction, Waterfront Development, Mixed Income Housing, Nellie Lutcher District Creation, McNeese Resilience District, Chennault Resilience District and Sowela, forming community resilience centers, providing resilient housing toolkits to builders, creating a redevelopment authority, and strengthening town centers in towns across the region.
Galmarini said community resilience centers are hurricane-resistant buildings that can serve as shelter during a storm or as a meeting place for activities such as yoga classes or club meetings the rest of the year.
She said the Resilient Housing Toolkits are already close to the competition and contain all FEMA-recommended building codes. It will be donated to housing authorities, local contractors and Habitat for Humanity.
“These are things the community wants,” Galmarini said. “It is important to Cameron Parish that we have coastal protection. It is important to Calcasieu Parish that Cameron Parish has coastal protection. We are all connected.
The use of trees as infrastructure to help with flooding as well as beautification is also planned.
Projects are also structured so that they can be linked to funding streams that are already available, Galmarini said.
“Projects are presented to be representative of the community and they are married with funding streams and along the way we share information with city and parish government and people at the state level so that they understand that Southwest Louisiana really cares and wants to make itself resilient and less vulnerable,” Galmarini said.
“There’s a very different energy to this project,” Carheel said. “People are passionate about the future of their community.”
“We’re in survival mode, but now we have this incredible gift where we don’t have to survive, we can thrive,” Nava said.
The deadline to add your voice to the Just Imagine online survey – justimagineswla.org – is Wednesday, May 25. It will be followed by the final round of public hearings on June 6 at Cash & Carry, June 7 at the West Cal Events Center in Sulfur and June 8 at Grand Lake High School.
After these sessions, the projects will move to the feasibility stage and the Community Foundation will work with leaders in the region to begin implementation.
“So let’s stop imagining and be like Nike and do it,” Galmarini said with a laugh.