For the past year, with the help of from partners and contributors, The TECHE Project has been hard at work collecting extensive research from historians, folklorists, local community residents, the Center for Louisiana Studies at UL Lafayette, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area (ANHA), and the state of Louisiana to compile the story of the Teche corridor for display on 16 Information Kiosks.
Funded by local businesses, residents and, in part by a $46,000 grant from ANHA, these kiosks welcome visitors arriving by land or water to the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail and Bayou Teche National Byway. Each kiosk tells the community’s individual stories and its relationship to this majestic waterway.
“The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area program seeks to build understanding of the unique cultural, environmental and recreational resources of the Atchafalaya basin and floodway,” says Executive Director Justin Lemoine. “The Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail tells the story of the water’s influence on these resources, and we are proud to provide grant funds for the 16 interpretive kiosks along the trail.”
Sponsorships for individual kiosks from the Teche-Vermilion Fresh Water District, SLEMCO, parish and city governments, and families collectively provided The TECHE Project with nearly $100,000 for the planning, research, artwork, fabrication and installation.
“Running from Port Barre to Berwick, Bayou Teche and the Lower Atchafalaya River are often described as Louisiana’s most historic and culturally significant waterway,” says TECHE Project Director Conni Castille. “Now, with these kiosks, we have a tool to explain why."
The TECHE Project is a nonprofit, membership-based organization begun as a litter and debris removal program in 2010. The TECHE Project now manages the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail, with the goal of bringing recreational tourism to the bayou. In 2015, The TECHE Project received the designation of “National Water Trail” from the U.S. Department of the Interior National Parks Service program. This recognition is one of 33 such designations in the United States—and the only one in Louisiana.
Since this prestigious designation, The TECHE Project has installed 11 official Bayou Teche/Lower Atchafalaya River National Paddle Trail floating docks and will soon install the remaining docks to complete the trail.
Measuring 4 feet wide by 5 1/2 feet tall, the Information Kiosks accompany the docks at each site. Kiosks are two-sided, with an orientation panel on one side that depicts a map of Bayou Teche and the Paddle Trail, safety tips and an inset map of each Trail Town. On the other side, a community panel presents stories about the locality, the waterway, wildlife, native plants, musical traditions, language phrases, aerial snapshots and, of course, recipes for a taste of life along the Bayou Teche corridor.
These kiosks can now be viewed in Port Barre, Leonville, Arnaudville, Breaux Bridge, Parks, St. Martinville, Loreauville, Jeanerette, Charenton, Baldwin, Franklin, Centerville, Patterson and Berwick. Kiosks for Poché Bridge and New Iberia will be installed soon. An accompanying music playlist can be found at techeproject.org, and the next step is to have the kiosk content available online in French, German and Spanish.
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