by Kathleen Rodrigue

Friends of Bayou Lafourche partnered with Nicholls State University to create an $8.1 million recreational area that will allow the Thibodaux community better access to Bayou Lafourche.

Spanning 7.5 acres of land, the Nicholls State University Bayou-Side Comprehensive Master Plan includes sidewalks, floating docks, a boat launch, an outdoor classroom, a pavilion, covered seating areas, and other improvements, says Ryan Perque, Executive Director of Friends of Bayou Lafourche that is directing the plan.

“We saw the Nicholls property as an area that was extremely under-utilized and the highest potential of use due to the large population,” Perque says.

Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, the Lafourche Parish tourism agency, gave money to hire Duplantis Design Group’s landscaping team.

“This plan has the potential to attract more people to our area as well as improve the quality of life for the people that live here,” says Timothy Bush, President and CEO of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou.

Perque says Friends of Bayou Lafourche collaborated with Nicholls administration, staff and student leaders, Thibodaux City Councilmen, Lafourche Parish Councilman, Louisiana Cajun Bayou, Duplantis Design Group, Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District and other community members to create the comprehensive plan.

Quenton Fontenot, Nicholls professor and head of biological sciences, said the Nicholls biology department is excited for better access to the bayou.

“It would give students a living lab space outside,” Fontenot says. “They can collect specimens right in front of campus instead of driving to get them. If we have an outdoor classroom or a pavilion with seating, we can do our lectures right next to the bayou.”

Henry Templet, a native of the bayou region and Treasurer of Friends of Bayou Lafourche, says he is also looking forward to better bayou access and another way for the community to get on the water.

“People used to use the bayou for fishing, crabbing, boating, and even skiing sometimes,” Templet says. “Now people in our area go on vacations to other places to use their streams and rivers for fun activities and never think to just do it in our own bayou.”

The plan will be done in phases and, with each of the nine phases dependent on outside funding, there is no timeline for completion of the entire plan, he says.

As of right now, Friends of Bayou Lafourche are continuing to seek funding for the project and informing people of the bayou’s purpose, Perque says.

Friends of Bayou Lafourche, a non-profit organization established in 2016, works to enhance Bayou Lafourche’s physical appearance and create and promote recreational opportunities.

Perque says he saw becoming a part of the organization as an opportunity to get involved in something he was passionate about.

“I’m from Thibodaux and I’m always on the water. I love having the opportunity to make improvements to our region, because it’s something that is certainly needed,” he says.

Perque says the Nicholls project is just one of many they have planned for the future. Friends of Bayou Lafourche plan to improve other pieces of land along the bayou in the Donaldsonville area; create an interactive map of Bayou Lafourche to inform people of access points; and create advisory committees in different areas of the bayou to address each specific area’s needs.