LEEVILLE, Louisiana — It's summertime and Leeville is busy, but not as busy as it hopes it will be this time next year.
Business owners hope a long-awaited public boat launch will draw yet more recreational fishermen to the south Lafourche village.
The Daily Comet reports (http://bit.ly/1r1tyeq) each year, thousands make their way to Leeville to fish in the marshes. Bob Gourges, who runs a guide service and fishing TV show based in Leeville, said the area is generally considered one of the best inshore salt-water fishing spots in the state.
While the fishing has been good, a more recent problem has been parking.
Public boat launches already exist in Leeville, but parking is limited and costs a fee.
Business is good during the summer, said Kent Hornbeck, owner of Boudreaux's Waterfront Motel.
"It has been so bad I had people coming and launch in their boats and then parking in my customers' spots," he said.
Hornback's motel is home to one of the launches in town, but parking is limited, and particularly busy weekends see trucks and empty boat trailers lining the road.
That will change with the construction of a new public launch.
The $1.1 million launch will be at the site of the old Leeville drawbridge. The first phase will accommodate about 60 trucks with boat trailers. It will have two 30-foot-wide concrete ramps and a kayak launching area.
A $487,000 federal grant from the Wildlife and Fisheries Wallop-Breaux Fund, $200,000 from the Greater Lafourche Port Commission and $413,000 from the Lafourche Parish Recreation Fund will pay for the launch.
Don Griffin, who owns Griffin's Marina, said the new launch will alleviate the inconvenience and danger of illegally parking alongside the road.
"It will generate more people coming down here. It will be easier for people to get their boat in the water. Especially local people who are not going to pay for a hotel room or something like that," Griffin said.
The launch is part of a continuing effort to brand Leeville as a fishing village, something it's been for years without tremendous promotion. The nonprofit Launch Leeville was key in obtaining a cultural designation from the state and organizing a festival in the town earlier this summer
Leeville is in slow transition and has been since its late 1800s founding as Orange City, principal site of the parish's orange orchards.
Over the previous century, coastal erosion transformed what was once a residential community with cotton fields, rice patches and oak trees into what some call an exaggerated shoulder along La. 1 where the skeletons of long-dead oak stand as a reminder to the area's lost landscape.
The area sits about 10 miles south of the levees of south Lafourche, with residents who remain there increasingly threatened by storm surge and the steady encroachment of the Gulf.
The end of Leeville as a residential community began with the hurricane of 1950, according to South Lafourche Levee District director and local history enthusiast Windell Curole. It persisted as a major oil and gas exploration and production staging point until the '80s. Since then the commercial driver has been the waters' bounty.
Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com