Anglers arriving by vehicle to fish on Elmer’s Island better get some comfortable walking shoes.
Even after construction is completed on the current beach restoration project being conducted by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, no vehicles will be allowed beyond the existing public parking area.
“There is a statute on the books that says with CPRA restoration projects there is no vehicular access without permission from them,” said Rene LeBreton, with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “It’s not our law. It’s not our statue. But we are required to enforce it.”
The statute, R.S. 38:213, can be viewed here.
In a prepared statement from CPRA emailed by public information director Chuck Perrodin Thursday afternoon, the agency confirmed that vehicular access was never in the plans once the project was completed.
"At this time vehicular access will not be permitted on the beach and dune areas of the Caminada Headland, which includes Elmer’s Island. This has been the case since the start of the historic construction project now underway," the statement reads. "We are required to protect the investment of more than $200 million being spent for this restoration. We are in the process of reviewing rules and regulations to determine the extent of limited access that can be allowed.
"We have plans to enhance the non-vehicular access to the beach and have identified sources of funding for that purpose. However, at this time we have not identified any means by which we can allow vehicular access once the project is completed. We will continue in our efforts."
The island is currently closed to the public through Aug. 22 because the restoration project construction was nearing the parking area where the access road meets the beach. Construction is anticipated to continue on the east side of the island through the fall.
Sammy Romano, manager at Chag’s Sporting Goods in Metairie and an avid surf fisherman on Elmer’s, wasn’t happy with the news.
“Personally, I’m very upset and disappointed, ‘he said. “I think it’s one of those ‘good suffer for the bad’ deals. You had a lot of kids — and some older people — without common sense who went out there and did doughnuts and rutted the beach up and everything else.
“So on the one hand I see where they just spent all this money building the beachhead back up, and the last thing they need is a bunch of clowns running up and down it dirt-riding ... Honestly, if you look around the rest of the country there’s very few places with beach access, and the reason is they tear the beach up.”
According to a public notice on the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources website, the LDWF applied for a permit on Aug. 3 to install wooden pilings to delineate a public parking area on the island, make improvements to Elmer’s Island Road and construct walking corridors across dunes for beach access.
The application says the public can submit comments on the project within 15 days of the notice.
Comments can be sent to the OCM Consistency Section, P.O. Box 44487, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-4487. For more information on the LDWF permit for pilings and walkways, contact Jeff Harris at 225-342-7591.
CPRA is restoring the beach habitat of the Caminada Headland by transporting sand from Ship Shoal — an underwater sand body located approximately 30 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico — to restore habitat on 13 miles of the barrier shoreline.