Atchafalaya Basin National Park?

The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area covers much of the historic Atchafalaya Basin and promotes the cultural and environmental aspects of the whole area that was once part of the overflow basin of the Atchafalaya River and the Mississippi River, through an earlier path than the one with which we are intimately familiar. The Heritage area provides visibility for the Basin but no protection for the land, much of which is now partitioned off as a floodway, which does a laudable job of protecting surrounding property and the people who have settled and developed it.

Throughout the history of Atchafalaya Basin conservation and restoration efforts, the suggestion was raised several times to designate parts of the Basin as a National Park. The Atchafalaya Basin Program even invited representatives of the Park Service to address its Advisory Committee about the possibilities. The story was always the same; the Floodway had been so heavily modified that it did not fit the criteria for a National Park.

Now, Harold Shoeffler and the Sierra Club Acadiana Chapter have issued a new plea to revisit the idea of an Atchafalaya National Park, but with a different twist. This idea would identify about 100,000 acres of public water bottoms, outside the West Atchafalaya Protection Levee, including very old cypress trees that were not logged in the early 20th century because they were stunted, apparently from sitting in water continuously, on the edge of the lakes. These areas and the adjacent shore lines are generally not inhabited and are essentially pristine, unlike the modified environment inside the levees.

Talks are underway or planned with our Federal representatives and, if the Congress would once again raise the priorities on environmental preservation, we might actually have a shot at establishing a protected area, adjacent to the Floodway, and representative of the historic beauty and importance of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Go, Harold!