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Hope for Elmer's Island

January 15, 2004 12:00 AM

Elmer's Island is a barrier beachfront and wetland area comprising several hundred acres directly across Caminada Pass from Grand Isle, Louisiana.  It is a continuation of one of the few land accessible beaches in the State of Louisiana.  Historically, it has been available for public camping, fishing and bird watching for a small fee charged by the owner and collected at the gatehouse on the entry road to the area.  The land has been for sale for several years and in 2001 the owner gated the access road so that the only access to the beach is by boat. 

Elmer's Island is well known for the excellent fishing opportunities it has historically provided for many popular species such as speckled and white trout, flounder, redfish, channel mullet, black drum, croaker, Spanish mackerel and many other species that frequent the State's coastal beaches and passes.  It also is (or was) a traditional family camping spot and a great place to observe wading, shore and seabirds as well as coastal marine life.  It has become part of the natural resource-dependent culture of coastal Louisiana, cherished by visitors from throughout the state and many nonresident anglers.  

Since the word has gotten around about the closure of Elmer's Island and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation's initiative to have the area dedicated to conservation and reopened to compatible public use, LWF has received a lot of support and encouragement from coastal anglers and birders and other groups with an interest in preserving Louisiana's coast and culture including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.  Funds are available for the acquisition, but thus far, negotiations to acquire the property have not been successful.

One of the benefits of public ownership of Elmer's Island is that it would preclude any developments incompatible with the State's coastal restoration effort and any land rights disputes that could otherwise come up should the area be impacted by a coastal restoration project.  Because of the nature of the past use and fragility of the area, and the expense of developing and maintaining infrastructure that would normally be expected for a public recreational facility -- paved roads, electrical hookups, parking areas and camp pads, cabins, bath facilities, etc., the LWF believes that Elmer's Island should be managed as a primitive recreation area and wildlife sanctuary that sustains the historical uses of camping, fishing and birding with appropriate restrictions to protect the habitat and wildlife there.  A recently published user survey  indicates strong public support for maintaining the primitive character of Elmer's Island.

LWF has proposed that an inventory of the habitat and wildlife on Elmer's Island be made and interpretive natural history information be developed for visitors and made available via the Internet, including delineation of "nature trails" and "wildlife sanctuaries."  We recognize that the habitat and wildlife on Elmer's Island is sensitive to human intrusion and fragile in some areas and during some seasons.  Therefore, we believe that wildlife "sanctuaries" that are off-limits to all but foot traffic and non-motorized watercraft may be necessary, and seasonal/permanent restrictions on the use of motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, campers, ATVs, etc.) in fragile habitat areas, places where disturbance is detrimental to wildlife such as shorebird nesting areas, and beaches where traffic contributes to beach erosion may be prudent.  We don't anticipate, nor is it our intention, that such sanctuary designations interfere with routine camping and fishing activities.  Previous users of Elmer's Island payed a fee to access the property, and we anticipate that a reasonable fee in the neighborhood of $5/day and $10 for overnight use will be charged when it is reopened. 

To sign up as a supporter of the Elmer's Island campaign go to www.elmersisland.org.  For more information see "Elmer's Island Primer" on this website.


 
 
 
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