BAYOU CORNE…Past, Present and Future

Dennis P. Landry, 120 Sportsman’s Drive, Bayou Corne

When you hear “Bayou Corne” what comes to mind? Do you think of the sinkhole, gas bubbling, and burning flares? I remember the days too well when Bayou Corne was a happy place, a place where people came to have a good time. I remember well the days when Bayou Corne was mentioned. It instilled visions of tall moss-draped cypress trees, sprawling live oaks, clear bayou water - thoughts of bass, brim, sacalait, egrets, herons, eagles, alligators – the beauty of nature all around; a bayou paradise.

I wonder how many of you know the origin of the name Bayou Corne? It is called “Corne” because some old farmer who planted a lot of “Corn” for his family and animals? “Corne” is French for the horns or antlers of a deer. Some believe it was called “Corne” because of the many big bucks found in the woods and swamps in the area. Others say that if you look at the old maps of the upper reaches of Bayou

Corne, the many branches resemble the spreading antlers of a deer.

In centuries past, many Indians traversed Bayou Corne hundreds of years before the first white man ever cast his eyes on the beauty of this meandering stream. No doubt, the Native American mound builders of “LaButte,” only three miles away along Grand Bayou (back Brusly St. Martin) at LA Highway 69 and LA 996, sent many a hunting and/or fishing party to nearby Bayou Corne.

The first settlers of Canadian (Acadian) and/or European origin had to arrive in the early 1800’s, perhaps earlier. Early records seem to indicate that Bayou Corne has been inhabited for at least 200 years. There were a few families living on both sides of the bayou earning a meager living from fishing, farming, hunting, and trapping. In later years, logging and moss gathering were common. Sugar cane was grown in the early days with some production continuing into modern times, as recently as the 1970’s.

Bayou Corne never had a great population and developed very slowly in the 1800’s, along with settlements in nearby Grand Bayou and Pierre Part. A hand drawn ferry on the bayou accommodated pedestrians and horses and wagons through the area. Early accounts in the 1850’s, by the most prosperous plantation owners in the parish, describe Bayou Corne as a wonderful place they frequented by horse and buggy on holidays to picnic, cook, fish, and swim in the clear waters of the picturesque bayou. Yes, Bayou Corne was always a happy place, a place to come and have a good time, and a happy place to live.

Into the 1900’s, again only a few families were earning a subsistence living at Bayou Corne. However, sometime in the 1940’s, various individuals (among them a Mr. Romero and a Mr. Aucoin) leased some land along the tree-lined bayou to establish some sort of business establishment catering to the general public’s need for entertainment. However, it was Jim DeGregory who really made the area popular in

1963 with the establishment of “Camp Bayou Corne.” Many of us remember well the bingo, crawfish boils, bands, carnival rides for the kids, campgrounds, and the Olympic size swimming pool! Later operators on the “Camp Bayou Corne” lease were B.J. Cox, Phil Simoneaux and others.

The first big influx of residents and campers to Bayou Corne took place in the 1970’s with the Joffrion brothers of Belle Rose purchasing the Militus Babin tract on the north side of Hwy. 70. They developed over 100 campsite lots, dug canals, and put in streets with names that invoke good times – names like Gumbo, Jambalaya, Sauce Picquante and Crawfish Stew! Soon some of those campsite lots were converted to many full time residences.

The next big increase in the number of residents came in the 1990’s when my former wife (Cathy Settoon) and I purchased some 31 acres at Bayou Corne. In August of 1993 we acquired from Dugas & LeBlanc, Inc. a 24-acre tract on the south side of Hwy. 70 and a 7.5-acre strip of land north of LA Hwy 70, between the highway and Jambalaya Street.

Without it sounding like a cliché, we had a “Dream,” a dream to create a beautiful waterfront community on what we considered to be one of the most beautiful bayous we had ever seen.

Our dreams became reality with the creation of Sportsman’s Paradise on the south side, and Magnolia Ridge on the north side of LA 70. We developed over fifty lots, and over forty families established happy homes in Bayou Corne. In 1993 we knew this land was near the Salt Dome, but not over it. We never imagined, not even in our worst nightmare, that this beautiful place could be threatened by a salt cavern collapse!

I built my small business here, I created a life for myself. I finished developing the lots, put in a boat ramp, built 3 fine Cajun Cabins and a handful of R.V. sites. Soon, the Cabins had visitors coming from around the state, the nation, and even from around the world. I’ve had visitors from every state in the nation and even from Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, England, Norway, and Sweden and even as far away as Australia. My wife Pat and I enjoy sharing our small piece of Cajun bayou paradise with the world. We relish sharing our Cajun culture for all who want to come and enjoy!

However, sad days have come to our bayou paradise. We are greatly saddened by the departure of so many people in such a small close-knit community, so many years in the making, now being dismantled and taken apart piece by piece, family by family, home by home. We all know the facts – the gas bubbling first reported May 30, 2012, the sinkhole formed August 3, 2012, gas released into the aquifer, the vent wells installed, slough-ins on the hole, mediation and “buy-outs” started.

When the sinkhole first formed, it was estimated that about 350 people and 150 homes/camps were located in Bayou Corne. Currently, of the 150 homes/camps only about 30 remain occupied. Some 66 or so residents/campers have been bought out – probably more by this time. Those who did not “opt-out” of the Class Action Suit will get a buy-out and soon leave their homes forever. Bayou Corne Holdings, LLC (owned by Texas Brine Co) will own the properties. Now, as far as the 27 homes on the south side of LA Hwy. 70, as best as we can determine at this time, only nine homes will remain occupied, eight homes directly on the Bayou and one on the corner of the bayou and the canal that encircles Sportsman’s Paradise.

On the north side of LA Hwy 70, it is not official yet, but it appears that only two camps and only one full time residence will remain. Across the bayou from Sportsman’s Paradise on the Triche Estate, it appears that the two residences there may remain. On the east side of Grand Bayou, the lone resident there now will remain also. While it is all still not certain, it appears that Bayou Corne will be reduced to no more than 15 homes/camps total!

Now, the future of the Bayou Corne area lies pretty much in the hands of the Texas Brine Company. The “new reality” is that TBC will soon own the over-whelming majority of the residential properties in the area. Texas Brine has publically stated that they have not made the final decision as to the future and final disposition of these properties. However, on several occasions, TBC has indicated there is a strong likelihood that the structures (homes) will be demolished and removed, the property converted to “green space,” and the grass maintained. Will any of the homes ever be re-sold and re-occupied? Will any of the property be re-developed in the future? Texas Brine and their insurance carriers will determine the future of those properties.

Now, for those of us remaining in Bayou Corne, TBC officials have assured us that they do not wish to disturb or disrupt our lives any more than has already taken place. They have promised us to be “good neighbors” into the future. They’ve also promised to monitor the sinkhole and the threat of gas.

For those of us staying in Bayou Corne, we are very happy and content with our decision to stay. We’ve studied the science and truly believe the worst is over. No science or expert is predicting the sinkhole will reach our homes, Hwy 70 or Bayou Corne to the south. It also seems like the gas is diminishing with no signs of it being re-charged! The bubbling in the Bayou in most places is also greatly reduced. The world also needs to know that the bayous and swamps near the sinkhole remain lush, green, and filled with fish and wildlife.

For the most part, Grand Bayou, Bayou Corne and the route to Lake Verret is as beautiful and scenic as ever. Waters remain un-polluted and cypress trees just as green and healthy as they were before the Sinkhole.

Into the future, life on our lovely bayou may never be quite the same. To those of us staying, our community will be much smaller and thus perhaps even quieter, more serene, more peaceful than ever before! Sportsman’s Landing and Cajun Cabins and RV sites will remain open for business, hopefully for a long time into the future. However, make no mistake, unless something much worse happens, there will always be a residential community at Bayou Corne – a neighborhood, a picturesque happy place where people live in harmony with the beauty of nature all around them; truly a Sportsman’s Paradise!