District 21 Rep. Travis Johnson of Vidalia authored legislation during the past session of the Louisiana Legislature that requests two government agencies study the feasibility of creating an 80-mile biking/walking trail along the Mississippi River from Vidalia to Lake Providence.

Johnson said the trail, which would be named Delta Trail, would result in improved health for Louisiana residents and bring economic benefits as well.

The legislation asks the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT) in consultation with the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) provide information and written recommendations on creating the Delta Trail.

“One thing that COVID-19 has taught us is that we need to become a healthier state,” Johnson said. “The tourism and economic potential that this {Delta Trail} could bring to our district is great and can be the beginning of making our 10-year plan a reality. All local parish presidents and mayors have signed on that they are in full support of this.”

Johnson’s bill refers to studies indicating that bicycling in northwest Arkansas provides an economic benefit of $137 million “with bike tourism serving as an economic driver from tourists spending $27 million at local businesses each year.”

One study shows that houses within a quarter mile of the Razorback Regional Greenway “sell for an average of nearly $15,000 more than houses two miles from the trail.”

Johnson’s bill also refers to a study by the Outdoor Industry Association that biking trails create enormous economic benefits throughout the country and support 848,000 jobs.

The trails “provide affordable exercise and recreation opportunities within the community and can aid in increasing the overall health of people in communities due to an increase in outdoor activities,” according to the legislation.

CRT and DOTD are to identify trail routes and the benefits of bicycle tourism trails as well as design criteria and estimate costs. Additionally, the agencies are to suggest ideas for stakeholder engagement as well as for sustainability and best practices, and also outline challenges with bicycle trail planning and development.

The agencies will address objectives “for the tourism trail routes that establish the criteria for route locations, map routes, and connect exiting bicycle, transit, rail, vehicle, and pedestrian networks with potential tourism trails.”

Safety, the coordination of bikeway trial connections statewide and costs associated with development of various bikeway accommodations are also to be addressed.

The main goals of the bill are to improve the health of the populace, provide enhanced recreation, increase retail sales and tourism, attract businesses and increase property values in northeastern Louisiana.

The findings and recommendations of CRT and DOTD are to be presented prior to March 1, 2021.

Johnson also said that during the past session, the Legislature addressed Covid-19 and hurricane relief efforts.

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