Along a rural highway in Louisiana, just south of the Mississippi state line, a workshop was held for the Hurricane Katrina-damaged town of Bogalusa, Louisiana. The workshop, located at a remote wooded retreat setting, was held April 23-25, 2006 and was organized by Louisiana Main Street in conjunction with the Mississippi Main Street Association. The workshop dealt with how to rebuild and reconstruct after a hurricane—specifically how to bring economic development back into a damaged area and address future growth.
The speakers for the conference included Lauren Adkins, with the National Main Street Center, speaking on Design Changes in Rural America; Pam Breaux, with the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism speaking on cultural development opportunities across the state; and Richard Hawks, Faculty of Landscape Architecture SUNY/CESF who described the Your Town program and set the stage for the workshop.
The town of Bogalusa grew around a lumber mill, which is sited in the physical center of the community. The mill still functions and serves as the major employer of the area. A creek, named the “Bogue Lusa,” runs east to west along the top of the mill site and further divides the town into distinct quadrants. As the city grew, civic functions were separated from the traditional shopping area.
The workshop was a great success with the creative contribution of thirty-one participants, who were divided into five small groups that developed strong design solutions to strengthen the connections among the town’s fragmented areas. In addition to linking the governmental buildings with the traditional shopping area, many of the groups recommended the creation of a linear green space along the creek. One group created puzzle pieces out of the different segments of the town that they united into one clear community vision through an entertaining performance piece. Another of the small groups presented new lyrics to a Beatles song, “Come Together, Bogalusa, Right Now!” Their song described how the town needs to connect its disparate parts both physically and socially.
The Mayor of Bogalusa concluded the workshop with a pledge to commit necessary resources to develop ideas discussed during the CIRD workshop.