NOTE: Today most people only know that Caney Creek Reservoir and Caney Lake State Park is considered one of the jewels of Sportsman’s Paradise, as the state is called. Few remember the countless trials, tribulations, pitfalls and roadblocks that had to be overcome or the role that Woody McDonald played in changing the woods into water. This week – Negotiations move forward!
(Ben Ledbetter, Jackson Parish Journal) Step one was done! After several years of making trip after trip to Baton Rouge the state of Louisiana Public Works Department finally came on board with funding for the planned waterway in Jackson Parish. Now the focus of Jackson Parish Watershed District Commissioner Woody McDonald turned to securing flood rights from the myriad of local land holders and the four major commercial entities involved.
All during the spring and summer of 1972, McDonald went from house to house offering $100.00 per acre for flood rights and agreeing that the landholder would get to keep all mineral and timber rights. By the end of September roughly 800 of the 4,885 acres had been negotiated.
“Nearly every one of the local land owners wamted to see the lake come to fruition and were agreeable to sell the flood rights,” said McDonald. “You would have thought I was running for office for all the doors I knocked on,” quipped McDonald while reflecting back on the many residences he went to. “Negotiation went really well though as nearly every one of the local land owners wamted to see the lake come to fruition.”
In regard to the Louisiana Department of Public Works (LDPW) the 800 acres that had been signed up was only a little over half way to the number of acres they needed before the next step in the lake’s construction could take place.
“We knew we still had a long ways to go but we were getting excited as we were getting closer to our first goal of 1500 acres,” reflected McDonald. “That was the number of acres the LDPW said we had to secure before they would proceed with the designing of the dam and associated engineering.”
On an alternate front, the Louisiana Department of Parks and Recreation (LDPR) and the North Delta Economic District (NDED) were formulating plans for two proposed parks on the shore of the lake.
“Their involvment was crucial to having a state park on the lake,” said McDonald. “The plans we had called for an overnight camping facility on the east side of the lake and boat ramps and picnic facilities on the west side. This meant that the state would have to maintain somewhere around 300-500 acres.”
By the summer of 1973 not only had enough flood rights been obtained to get the LDPR working on their design and engineering, McDonald had also secured the flood right from four of the five commercial entities that held the lionshare of acreage.
“Continental Can and Olincraft had just a little short of 1000 acres between them,” recalled McDonald. “United Gas had almost the same amount but the big get was Tremont Lumber’s holding which was just short of 2000 acres along with another 82 acres for the dam site.”
The actual amount of acreage owned by the companies were:
415.57 – Continental Can Company
492.00 – Olincraft Company
850.70 – United Gas Company
1,936.07 – Tremont Lumber Company
In December of ’73, more positive traction was gained. Through the help of US Senator’s Russell B. Long and J. Bennett Johnston, along with US Representative Otto Passman, the Federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (FBOR) awarded the JPWD $151,524.00. The money was allocated to pay for 355 addtional acres of land for recreational purposes on the shores of the lake, aka, the desired state park. Adding icing to the cake the state agreed to match the funds.
“This was really great news and got the ball rolling on both fronts,” reflected McDonald who along with members of the JPWD went to work to purchase the acreage. “We were paying $100.00 per acre for easements, $200.00 per acre for the dam site and $300.00 per acre for the recreation area.”
The total cost of the recreation area after development was expected to be around 1.7 million dollars. This included a seperate day area and a night area where it was estimated that 1500 people daily could be serviced.
“We knew we still had to finish negotiations with Tennessee Gas Company on securing their four pipelines on the south end of the lake but I thought this would be just a formality like the others and that we were pretty much home free,” said McDonald. “Boy, was I ever wrong!”
Next week! – Tenneco says no no!
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