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State Claims Portion of Elmer's Island
Governor Bobby Jindal came to Grand Isle Monday (Dec. 15) to announce a first step toward the commitment he made last August to restore public access to Elmer's Island. At a Noon press conference hosted by Mayor David Camardelle at the Grand Isle Community Center, the Governor asserted the state's claim of ownership to approximately 250 acres of accreted beach and sand spit on the southeast portion of the "island." The sandy hook is now officially open for day use by the public to fish, picnic and beach comb.
There will be no use fee charged other than the required licenses for those who choose to harvest fish, crabs or shrimp. It will be managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a wildlife refuge and public recreation area. Until further notice, all public access is from the water and no overnight or vehicle use will be allowed.
The Governor indicated that this was a first step toward acquiring and reopening the entire 1700 acres, including restoring road access from Hwy. 1 to the beach. The timeline depends on resolution of land rights and negotiations with the owner. Until it was closed, the Elmers allowed the public to access the island for a small fee.
"Louisiana is the Sportsman's Paradise and Elmer's Island is certainly one of our state's jewels," said Governor Jindal. "We are excited to announce that it is now open to the public." Jindal said that the state will keep the area as a recreation spot and a wildlife sanctuary, while also allowing fishing and bird watching. "Louisiana is committed to making sure the beaches and marshes of Elmer's and surrounding areas are restored and enhanced," he said.
Robert Barham, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, welcomed visitors to the newly-claimed state land and asked that they use the area respectfully, packing out all trash upon leaving and picking up after others as well. He vowed to pursue negotiations with the owner to acheive the complete goal of securing the entire 1700 acres.
The road access to Elmer's Island was closed in 2001 after the death of Jay Elmer who operated the concession. The following year the Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) initiated a grassroots campaign to restore public access and use through acquisition by the state.
"I can't tell you how impressed I am that our busy governor took the time to come all the way down to Grand Isle to make this announcement," said Keith Saucier, a LWF past president and leader in the campaign to acquire and reopen Elmer's Island. "That shows how committed Governor Jindal is to this project and tells me that the state has truly taken ownership of the idea. It's been a long, almost seven years since the federation, our partners with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and other interested organizations and citizens embarked on this effort and, at times, the prospects have looked pretty bleak. But we are heartened by this announcement and looking forward to a successful conclusion in the coming months."
Saucier, a Grand Isle camp owner, initiated the Elmer's Island acquisition campaign when he found the gate to Elmer's Island locked as he passed by on his way home to Gonzales. After investigating the situation, he brought the idea to the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the campaign was joined.
Here is more information on Elmer's Island and the campaign to restore public use.