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Hunting Camps

My Family is from Reserve and Garyville and I am sorry to say that the State has won the Battle.

State to force removal of hunting, fishing camps
Posted by River Parishes bureau June 04, 2007 9:52PM
By Victoria St. Martin
River Parishes bureau

Private hunting and fishing campsites built along a St. John the Baptist Parish canal more than 50 years ago will be removed by the end of the summer as the state turns the land into a wildlife management area that will be opened to the public.

After five years of litigation, with attorneys for the parish taking the case all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court in February, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries won the final battle.

The state's highest court denied an appeal from St. John and upheld a District Court decision from October 2006, effectively dissolving an injunction that prevented the state from removing the camps scattered on the Reserve Canal. The ruling gave the state sole ownership to the land, which had been donated to the state in 2001.

DWF spokesman Bo Boehringer said attorneys on both sides of the issue discussed a June 1 eviction date, but the ultimate goal is for all residents to remove the campsites by the start of the traditional hunting season on Sept. 1.

Boehringer said overnight stays are prohibited in the wildlife management area.

In a sportsman's paradise like Louisiana, state officials said the management area will ensure that the land will never be used for development.

"It will remain a natural habitat," said Boehringer, "with the same goal of each public wildlife management area: to never be developed and held in the public trust. It can be used throughout the year."

As for the campsites, Boehringer said it's the department's policy to prohibit private camps inside wildlife management areas because the goal is to return the area to the natural habitat and allow uniform access to all.

"Allowing anyone to have private camps gives them an undue advantage," he said. "It's uniform across the board."

If the private clubs do not remove the camps, state officials say they will demolish them.

"We have given them as much notice as possible to allow them to remove their property," said Boehringer, adding that the process would be punctuated by several notices before the camps would be destroyed.

Some of the camps were built by hand years ago and passed to generations of parish residents, supporters of the campsites have said.

The modest structures sit along the Reserve Relief Canal, which feeds into Lake Maurepas, in a section of the state's 67,000-acre Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.

About 91 percent of the land was sold in the summer of 2001 by the Lutcher and Moore Cypress Lumber Co. Ltd. to the Richard King Mellon Foundation, an environmental philanthropic organization based in Pittsburgh, and hunting club members, who rented the land, were given eviction notices, according to court documents.

St. John had argued that because it had been leasing and maintaining the Reserve Canal and a small strip of land around it since 1952, it has rights to the property. Club members turned their cabins over to the parish in 2002 and an ordinance was passed allowing the parish to lease the camps to the clubs on a monthly basis.

The state had been ready to remove the camps for years, but was blocked by an injunction issued by 40th District Court Judge Mary Hotard Becnel, who had said that until ownership of the land around the canal was established, the state couldn't tear down the cabins. An October 2006 decision ruled in favor of the state.

Now, out of the six hunting clubs that originally fought to keep the land, five campsites, with a total membership of about 100 residents, remain, said Catherine Leary, one of the attorneys who represented St. John in the case.

"The key issue for them has always been the swamp," Leary said of the hunting clubs. "They wanted it to be cared for and preserved for future generations."

Last week, Leary said the DWF had requested that her clients vacate by June 1, but Monday she said there was a misunderstanding about the moving date that has led to a slight delay.

The state "has given a short amount of additional time, but the move is in progress," she said.

A club member of Reserve Gun and Rod, Ricky Jacob, 58, of Reserve, said he's been hunting at his campsite since he was 5, a year after it was built in 1952.

As he prepared for his exodus over the weekend, he rattled off a mental checklist of items he needed to retrieve: bunks, pots, fans, a wood stove. The camp, he says, is bulging with "over 50 years of hunting."

"We are taking stuff out that we can salvage," Jacob said. "We still have a couple (of) things to get out and we hope that we'll get another week or two."

For Jacob, the change is agonizing.

"All my life has been at the hunting camp," he said. "We spent weeks at a time there, and it hurts. It's something we did all of our lives."

"Then, they came down and said, 'It's ours.' They don't care about the public," Jacob said.

State officials beg to differ.

Randy Myers, a DWF biologist manager, says the wildlife management area -- which will expand by an additional 1,600 acres with a $950,000 federal grant that was issued last month -- will protect wetlands and wildlife for the masses.

For the members of the hunting camps who have been trapping and fishing and hunting there for years, it's hard to let go of years of memories.

"At midnight (May 31), they go over to Wildlife & Fisheries," Dean Torres, 62, a Reserve resident and longtime member of Tatton's Hunting Club, said Friday. "The most important thing is that the swamp will still be there. That's the one thing we all agree with: that the swamp and wildlife is most
I'm sorry
I'm sorry you lost your camp. We lost our hunting lease. That being said, you can't have anyone with a camp on Public Land. I'm sorry, it's not fair. Yeah, it sucks that the land was sold and we weren't given a chance to buy it. My club could have easily raised the money in 24 hours or less to buy our 3,000 acres, but we never had a chance.

On the bright side, all those acres will never be drained and developed, and believe you me, there were some big-time developers looking at that land along I-10 with development in mind, wetlands or not.
Another south Louisiana tradition buried. Sad. The history that is lost with the passing of those camps.
Agree with Wilford, except it should not have taken so long. May sound cold, but this is life in the early 21 st. century
Camp for 50 years? That is a sad thing to give it up after that long. But maybe it's time to build a new camp close by the public area. After 50 years the old camp had to be ready for improvements, eh?
This is purely a case of a few giving up a tradition for the good of a few hundred thousand people and countless numbers of animals.
As the world population grows and puts the squeeze on our resources (in this case the land) we best all better be prepared to give things up.
There's many more people around that want to enjoy the same things you/we do. Prepare to give up more as we get older.................
Hey Ray
Hey Ray, great comments. No we can wait on LSU Law to come in and leave his rulings.He has a different point of view b/c he has a gated canal.
My answer to gated canals= Chain saw with a metal cutting blade.
This is kind of confusing. The campsites were leased, the property sold, then donated to the state as a WMA. The leases were terminated. The State received huge political pressure and lost several hometown court decisions which allowed the camps to remain on public property for years after they should have been removed. Now the entire public has the right to use the entire refuge, and no one has the advantage of camps on the refuge. While I sympathize with the clubs, they can all still hunt the same exact property, as can any other member of the public.
No love...
Sowtrout? What's the deal? You know we don't gate canals in Shreveport (where I'm from).

As for this issue, this is the first I've heard of it. It sucks that these folks are losing their long-held camps, even if the camps were just leased, and not owned.
i've heard that the judge had special interests in the case because someone close to her was in one of the camps. possibly her husband. that's why i heard it got hung up. not sure if it's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. the politics in that area are about as corrupt as in new orleans. just look at the tax base and then look at the condition of st. john parish. the taxes for that parish are some of the highest in the state but the parish looks like it's the poorest. la politics at it's finest. okay, enough of that rant. now, i really do feel bad for that camp memebers, but many were dog hunters. with the way the season was going to be set up to allow dog hunting on the wma, that would have essentially given them back sole use of the land. i can see that this wma is going to be a trouble spot for wlf.
Big Picture
Like I said earlier it does not affect me but I do have family that this does affect. Who on this site that belongs to a private lease would be glad that their lease is now public land for all to hunt. Most people that join private leases do so to get away from the idiots that prey on public land. Not everyone that hunts public land is an idiot but lets face facts you are dealing with the public need I say more. Hunting is about comradalry and not all about the kill it is about the time spent at the camp with family and friends and about the memories that will always be in a family. That is what is being taken away from future generations by this being done. I lost a brother many years ago that use to hunt in Garyville the camp was not fancy nor was the hunting but the memories my nephew has of the time that he and his dad spent at the camp and in the same swamp will not be the same for him to share with his kids. That is what is being lost.
amen to that crazy white boy.hunted in the same club from the time i could walk till i was 18,the memories i have i'll never's said ,but,my kids will probally never experience that.they'll have to live in sub-divisions and hunt public land.
Cry babies
Stop all the crying and whining. Put your big girl panties on and deal with it. If you grew there then you probably know the best spots to hunt...go in establish your spots and quit Biatchin. I mean shizzit its over and done.
The way posts get pulled around here....I can see that this one is in the early stages of being pulled. LOL
Not Whining at All
Nighthunter I have 1250 acres of prime family owned land not whining at all just stating facts for family and friends.Feel sorry for the people and the years of dedication and hard work maintaining camps and the blood sweat and tears that went into them and now will be lost. I hope that they take them down board for board before they leave them and bring them out the swamp the same way they were brought in.
Really tried to ignore this post, because I'm a member of one of these camps, but oh well I'll tell you how its gonna go. They wont be taken down board for board. LDWF is going to burn them down like they already did to 3 others in that section (I belonged to one), along with the 6 or 7 on ruddock canal and prarie canal (I belonged to another here). Sad how they destroyed all of those years of history, hey how about tearing down all of the plantations along the river, or history musuems, or any other monuments that have impacted and created so many memories for so many people! Having a camp does not give you any more advantage, I been at that camp just about every day during the WMA deer season. Over the past 7 years I have only seen about 4 or 5 differnt boats, and they all say they are never coming back, because they want to stay on the high ground and not walk the swamp. GOOD!! They should all go back to Mississippi where the deer feed out of your hand and you pick which one you want. (Thats not hunting, thats just KILLING). Not a single one of them hunt hard, they walk in about 100 yrds or so and they rest sit about 75 yards off of I-10. No wonder they didnt do any good, you have to get way deep into that swamp in order to get the big boys! Those of you not involved with this have no clue what the hell you are talking about. Thanks alot our beloved governer Blanco for all of your help and support to your louisiana natives who built all of these small towns around our precious Maurepas Swamp WMA! NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!