Down at the end of Jahncke Avenue in Covington, just before it turns into Old Landing Road, is a roadside park with some extra special features.
Click on the images to make them larger.
It has a circular paved walking trail, a variety of playground equipment, picnic tables both in open sun and tree-shaded, plus a great covered pavilion overlooking the tranquil Tchefuncte River. Oh, and a giant nose.
It’s official name is “First Avenue Park,” and it was a project promoted by Covington City Councilman, Matt Faust in the mid-1990’s. After four years of site clean up and landscaping efforts, it opened officially with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 17, 1996, although it had already been open for public use and enjoyment for months before.
That five-acre park has become known as “Nose Park,” because of the big nose that sticks out of the ground near the front of the park. It even has its own Google Maps label, and positive reviews as well.
The Riverside Covered Pavilion
A river observation deck
A boardwalk goes down to the level of the river for a closer look.
The riverside pavilion was built by Randy Aultman
According to former Mayor Keith Villere the plans for the park included more docks and the clearing of the lower brush to make some nature trails. “We were designing a whole playground full of art components, swings, climbing things, etc.,” he said.
The covered pavilion at the river is wheelchair accessible, giving everyone a chance to look at the water and enjoy the peaceful bend in the river. Birds and butterflies frequent the site.
Benches to sit and enjoy the outdoors
The park occupies the land which was once the city’s sewage processing plant. That meant it had large circular tanks filled with sewage. “It’s not everyday you turn a sewer plant into a park and greenery,” said Councilman Faust at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The sewage treatment plant was no longer used after a new sewerage system was put in, and the city first tried to demolish the old facility with their own work crews. When that wasn’t going fast enough, officials were able to get some grant money to hire a contractor to take on the job. It was not an easy task, given its solid reinforced concrete construction.
Some people used the site as a garbage dump for a while, and that caused a problem, not only for the nearby river, but because of all the broken glass mixed in with the garbage. Turning the area into a park required a great deal of effort to remove the layer upon layer of broken glass.
City officials and workers prevailed, however, and after spending an initial $60,000 (half of which was paid by a federal Land & Conservation grant), the area was successfully cleaned up, transformed into a park, and is now regularly visited by children and parents for their recreational needs. “Making the old sewer plant into a park also helped property values in the area,” Faust said.
The Tchefuncte River at 1st Avenue Park (Nose Park)
The Nose at Nose Park
The sculpture was done by Al Ormsby. A nearby resident built a small garden next to the sculpture, and it was called “The Nose Garden.”
Covington History segment provided by local historical writer Ron Barthet. View Ron’s blog Tammany Family here.
Historian Powell Casey extensively researched the history of Military Road (La. Hwy. 21) and once gave a presentation to the St. Tammany Historical Society detailing his findings. He later published a more extensive report in a statewide historical publication, and I wrote a newspaper article summarizing it. Click on the image of the article below to view a larger version of the article, which was published in 1974. A text version of this article is found below.
The history of Military Road has become of heightened interest locally and throughout the state, and historian Powell Casey recently published an article in the publication “Louisiana History,” concerning it.
The Military Road known as “La. 21,” that comes through Covington from Bogalusa and extends down to Madisonville, played an important part in local history, especially around the war of 1812.
In his article, he noted that fifty years ago, there were three routes in Louisiana that went under the name of Military Road; these three were General Wilkinson’s Road, General Carroll’s Road and General Jackson Road from New Orleans to Muscle Shoals. It was the third one which transverses St. Tammany Parish.
Casey explains that when U. S. troops under General Leonard Covington took possession of Baton Rouge in December of 1810, better communication between New Orleans and federal officials on the east coast seemed possible. Once the Florida parishes were taken from the Spanish controlled West Florida, the U. S. tried to strengthen its position by building forts and improving roads throughout the area.
While old established Indian trails provided much of the overland routes from the east coast westward there remained a lack of direct routes to New Orleans from the frontier of Tennessee. “Although Spain protested American acquisition of Louisiana,” Casey writes,-, “the Spanish governors had permitted American mail-riders to go to New Orleans via Baton Rouge or via Madisonville and across Lake Pontchartrain.” The numerous swamps in the area inhibited vehicular traffic, however.
Though sometimes hostile Indians caused problems in establishing horse trails, the government finally got an agreement with the Creeks. Chickasaws, and Choctaws to use some of their trails as horse paths. It was also arranged that the Natchez Trace could be used as a wagon road. Once the Creeks were defeated by troops in 1814, the path they had designated became a vehicular road, also.
Slowly, the clearing out and improvement of a road from Baton Rouge to Muscle Shoals, Tenn., was started. The road headed west from Baton Rouge to the Tchefuncte River then headed north to the intersection of the Bogue Chitto and Pearl River; from there it went northward to Tennessee. Early maps show the road running from Baton Rouge and St. Francisville eastward to the site of the old St. Tammany courthouse.
A number of old military records fail to show the route as accurately as historians would like, and it is believed that another road began somewhere between the Tchefuncte and Tangipahoa River and headed north towards Natchez. As a result, some confusion still stands as to where some of the roads were located.
The Military Road bearing Jackson’s name was so entitled because he was the one who had it built, not because he used it to return his troops from his victory in New-Orleans, Casey says. Instead, records indicate that Jackson left New Orleans via the river road next to the Mississippi.
This round-about way of leaving New Orleans reportedly convinced Jackson that a more direct way to get to the city was needed. In a letter to the secretary of war in 1815, Jackson wrote of a need for a road to, transport men and supplies from the Tennessee River to New Orleans, a direct route, he noted which would save 300 miles. Jackson was to select the route which would facilitate the movement of troops. The building of the road would be a way to keep his troops occupied, also.
Congress, in April of 1816, appropriated $10,000 for the repair and maintenance of two roads, one from Tennessee to New Orleans, presumably Jackson’s Road, and another from Fort Hawkins, Georgia, to Fort Stoddert. It was estimated that the building of roads at that time ran something like $200 a mile, including bridges, Casey reported.
By November of 1819, the road had been completed for 125 miles, extending from Muscle Shoals to Columbia, Miss., where a military ferry was established. Slow progress brought the road to the Mississippi-Louisiana line and the Pearl River by July of 1819. Then began the long effort at taking the road on to Covington, a 75 mile stretch. Log jams of timber debris prevented supplies from getting up the Pearl River, and it took 12 days for a three yoke ox cart to make the round trip to Covington for supplies.
To further complicate matters, negotiations with Spain were deteriorating, and the secretary of war told Jackson to be ready to move against Pensacola should hostilities break out. The Congress had also cutback the appropriations for completion of the road. The secretary of war warned that if the road was not completed soon, the troops would be recalled and the work suspended.
On July 8, 1820, General Jackson reported to Washington that the road had finally been completed, Casey notes. It covered 483 miles from Madisonville to Nashville, allowing mail to be delivered from Washington to New Orleans in a mere 17 days.
Jackson, in a letter, predicted that the route would become the most important road in America, implying that it would save the lives of many citizens by affording places of shelter and places of aid for the sick traveler.
Casey goes on to report that the southernmost 120 miles of the road crossed 25 streams and that 12,000 feet of causeway were installed through low areas. Once the road was completed, it was recommended that more steamboats be put into service between Madisonville and New Orleans.
In 1821, the U. S. acquired Florida, and Jackson’s road lost, its importance as a military road. It continued to serve as a mail route, however, and was kept in good repair. After that, local residents were put in charge of keeping the road in shape, with an 1822 state legislative act calling upon all persons living within five miles of Military Road to perform repair work on it.
Changes in settlement patterns and reforestation programs have all but obliterated some military roads, Casey comments, but “when one crosses the Tchefuncte River at Covington and travels northeastward along La. 21 and La. 1082, he can be sure of being on “the Military Road.”
Jackson’s Military Road was a 19th-century route connecting Nashville, Tennessee, with New Orleans, Louisiana. After the War of 1812, it was improved with federally-appropriated funds. The road was named for Andrew Jackson, hero of that war’s Battle of New Orleans.
The appropriation for Jackson’s Military Road was made on April 24, 1816:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the sum of ten thousand dollars be and are hereby appropriated, and payable out of any moneys in the treasury not otherwise appropriated for the purpose of repairing and keeping in repair the road between Columbia, on Duck River in the state of Tennessee, and Madisonville, in the state of Louisiana, by the Choctaw Agency, and also the road between Fort Hawkins, in the state of Georgia, and Fort Stoddard, under the direction of the Secretary of War.
On September 24, 1816, William H. Crawford, Secretary of War, informed General Andrew Jackson, who was then commanding the Army district at Nashville, of the appropriation, and directing that $5,000 be spent on the road to Louisiana. He noted that “I have received no information of the length of this road, the nature of the country through which it passes, or its present state. If there are many bridges to be erected the appropriation will be inadequate to the object. In that event the employment of a part of the troops may become necessary.”
Jackson was officially in charge of the entire construction, including the First and Eighth Infantry and the artillery detachment who supplied the labor. However, much of the construction was supervised by his subordinates. Captain H. Young surveyed the route, completing this task by June 1817. Bridges were indeed needed, and an additional $5,000 was appropriated in March 1818. Major Perrin Willis took command of the construction gang, then numbering about fifty, in April 1819, when the road reached the Pearl River. The road was completed in May 1820, after 75,801 man-days of labor.
The Tuscumbian of Tuscumbia, Alabama, printed a description of “General Jackson’s Military Road” on November 12, 1824. It states its length at 436 miles (Nashville to Madisonville) or 516 miles (Nashville to New Orleans), 200 miles (320 km) shorter than the historic Natchez Trace. The article describes the construction gang as averaging 300, “including sawyers, carpenters, blacksmiths, etc.” The road included 35 bridges and 20,000 feet (6,100 m) of causeway, particularly through the swamps of Noxubee County, Mississippi.
This historical marker is in Columbus, Mississippi. Jackson’s Military Road, surveyed by Captain Hugh Young, ran from Cotton Gin Port to Madisonville, LA. Photo Source: MississippiMarkers.com
From Columbia, Tennessee, the Military Road passed through Lawrenceburg and crossed the Tennessee River at Florence, Alabama. The road intersected the Gaines Trace at Russellville, Alabama (where it still exists as Jackson Avenue). It then cut cross-country through then-mostly-unoccupied lands of Alabama and Mississippi, including some still owned by the Choctaw Nation.
In Hamilton, Alabama, “Military Street” marks the route of the Military Road. The road crossed the Tombigbee River in Columbus, Mississippi; the route still exists in that town and still bears the name “Military Road” from the Alabama border to downtown. West of the Tombigbee, the road passed through lands later assigned to Lowndes, Noxubee, Kemper, Newton, Jasper, Jones, Marion, and Pearl River Counties, before crossing into Louisiana at the Pearl River twenty miles (32 km) west of today’s Poplarville, Mississippi. The road then passed directly from the future site of Bogalusa, Louisiana, to Madisonville, Louisiana, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
Jackson’s Military Road declined in importance in the 1840s due to disrepair and the difficult route through the swamps of the Noxubee River, and it was largely replaced by the Robinson Road. (Available information about Robinson Road is scant, but it apparently linked Columbus, Mississippi, and Jackson, the city which became Mississippi’s capital in the early 1820s.)
The route later became part of the Jackson Highway.
Check out Ron Barthet’s blog Tammany Family for more great local history!
The City of Covington is launching a project to plan a network of sidewalks, paddle and shared-use recreational trails, thanks to being selected by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program for technical assistance.
The federal agency will offer the city technical support as it launches “Covington Community Trails: Greenways and Blueways,” a planning project that will result in a conceptual design of non-motorized routes in and around the city. The project will take about a year to complete, and shall be implemented in stages using a strategy that incorporates grant funding and traditional sources of city revenue, along with public and private partnerships.
Bogue Falaya River
One key feature of the design will be a paddle trail approximately five miles in length along the Bogue Falaya and Tchefuncte Rivers which border the southern portion of the city. With the main launching hub at Bogue Falaya Park, paddlers will be able to disembark from their kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to take advantage of the city’s array of commercial, cultural and recreational venues including four municipal parks, the downtown historic district, St. Tammany Trace, and the Covington Trailhead Museum and Cultural Arts and Events Center. Access to these attractions will be further enhanced by approximately ten miles of interconnected sidewalks and shared-use trails that may be used for bicycling, skating and jogging. These non-motorized routes will tie into city neighborhoods, thereby making walking and bicycling an easier and more pleasant means of recreation and transportation for residents and visitors alike.
As the plan is implemented, the City anticipates four positive outcomes: increased recreational opportunities for citizens; spurred economic growth; improved conservation practices; and a strengthened sense of community and civic pride. Ultimately, the plan will incorporate initiatives encouraged by the federal advocacy group, Smart Growth America, and the National Complete Streets Coalition. These initiatives include creating walkable neighborhoods, providing a variety of transportation choices, improving the capacity and efficiency of local roads, and preserving natural beauty and critical environmental areas. By following “smart growth” principles, the plan will ultimately provide more options for how people can navigate the City of Covington, and support businesses and jobs in the process.
“I am delighted that the National Park Service has chosen to work with the City of Covington through the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program,” said Covington Mayor Mike Cooper. “By lending their expertise and support to this project, they are helping us move forward in our goal to increase recreational opportunities and become a more connected, pedestrian-friendly city.”
Input from local residents and prospective stakeholders will be an integral part of the planning process, accomplished in part through a series of public meetings. The first meeting is on Thursday, December 4, at 6 p.m. at the Covington City Council Chambers, 222 E. Kirkland St. The public is invited to attend. Additionally, National Park Service representatives are available to meet one-on-one with civic, recreational and professional organizations that wish to contribute ideas, obtain more information, or get involved in the project.
“We (RTCA) take the input of the residents of Covington very seriously when developing a plan that is intended to reflect that which they hope to see in the community,” said RTCA Louisiana Project Coordinator Stacye Palmer-McBride.
“Public input is essential to help shape recreational amenities that can be enjoyed by all Covington citizens in the future,” said Covington Planning and Zoning Director Nahketah Bagby, “These amenities will increase the ability for citizens to make active, healthy lifestyle choices and enhance quality of life in Covington.”
The project is being stewarded by a committee of federal and city employees that includes Palmer-McBride and Bagby, along with RTCA Program Manager Deirdre Hewitt, National Park Service Community Assistance Fellow Sofia Lopez, City Engineer Daniel Hill, Cultural Arts and Events Manager Aimee Faucheux, Executive Assistant to the Mayor for Special Projects Pam Keller, GIS Analyst Chad Whaley, Grants Administrator Kelli Moore, and Keep Covington Beautiful Executive Director Priscilla Floca.
To schedule a one-on-one meeting or obtain more information about Covington Community Trails: Greenways and Blueways, email Stacye Palmer-McBride at email@example.com or call Kelli Moore at (985) 898-4717.
This unique free event will feature five live hot local bands on a water barge in the river! Enjoy the music of Kandeeside, 90 Degrees West, Main Street, Four Unplugged and Band Camp on the Tchefuncte River to raise awareness on how to keep our beautiful river clean and safe. The barge will be located at 30 degrees 22.698N and 90 degrees 9.505W, and boaters are invited to set anchor and enjoy a nearby beach. Learn more by checking the Foundation’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TchefuncteRiverFoundation
This event was generously sponsored by Columbia Street Rock-N-Blues Café, T Rivers, Hooked Up Again, Davie Shoring & Cole’s Rental World.