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Monday, March 22, 2021

C. B. Dickson Park Remodel

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Work under way to renovate local refuge

Introducing a new show on HGTV: “Park Fixer Upper.”

In the first episode, Shreveport’s C. Bickham Dickson Park — closed off and on for the better part of five years — is touted as a place to welcome nature lovers and fishermen. However, the park needs a major makeover.

The folks to handle the big job? Chip and Joanna from “Fixer Upper”? Bryan and Sarah from “Renovation Island”? Nope. Meet Pat Stinson and the crew from Red River National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge’s headquarters — along with its property and hiking trails — is located along Bossier City’s Arthur Ray Teague Parkway. But late last year, the refuge signed a 99-year lease with the City of Shreveport and the State of Louisiana to manage the park — renamed C.B. Dickson Unit — as part of the refuge.

“We’ve had a push over the past couple of years as far as trying to reach urban audiences (in the fish and wildlife services),” said Stinson, who manages the refuge. “We’re just right across the river, so to be able to expand that on the other side of the river is obviously something we wanted to do.”

But as with any renovation, there’s a lot of work to be done — especially on a piece of property that had not been mowed or maintained for several years. However, some small improvements have already been made, which allowed the fishing pier to reopen.

“We cleaned up, with the assistance of volunteers, the initial area when you pull in,” Stinson said. “That little, small parking lot and the fishing pier. It’s been open since a couple of weeks after we signed the lease. Just this past week (early March), we got in there and swept and got the dirt and salvinia off the roads that we could. We’re slowly making progress.”

That progress will lead to a piece of nature that will provide a quiet getaway from the nearby traffic and hustle and bustle of retail areas.

“This partnership allows the park to be opened for the public to enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, nature photography and nature,” said Shelly Ragle, director of Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation. “Most importantly, the park will be preserved in its natural state, thus protecting this valuable asset for years to come.”

“It will be real similar to what we have on the other side of the river,” Stinson explained. “We will have some hiking trails. There are some existing pavilions, but we haven’t been able to assess, so I don’t know what kind of shape they are in. There is a boat ramp there and a fishing pier, so the biggest emphasis will be on hiking — whether you are bird watching or hiking for exercise. Then, being able to offer fishing yearround.”

C.B. Dickson Unit will also be something of a classroom. The refuge plans on offering opportunities to learn about what — and who — surrounds us.

“Education, regardless of what it’s about, is important to everybody,” Stinson said “Ever since Covid started, our visitation has increased almost 10-fold — people looking to get out of the house, get out of the office and just recreate,” Stinson said. “While people are doing that, we want to have the opportunity to educate them about the environment around them, and how important it is not only to us, but to the critters that live in it.”

Unfortunately, there are other things living in the unit besides the critters.

“There are two main invasive species there,” Stinson said. “The one that’s in the lake — giant salvinia — and Chinese tallow trees, which have been there for a long time. We’re going to go in there and clean those out. It will probably look open more like it did 30 years ago” Swimming beneath the salvinia are plenty of fish for the catching.

“Anything that you can find in the river is going to be in there, because the river gets in it,” Stinson said. “All the game fish, and what most people would call trash fish. All the common fish in Northwest Louisiana will be in there.”

And early results show the fish are hungry. “The people that are fishing are smiling,” Stinson said. “I think they’ve been doing very well … All the reports we’ve heard is that the fishing has been really good.”

Unlike on HGTV, the remodel of C.B.

Dickson Unit will take more than 30 minutes or an hour.

“I would hope by this time next year, we would have it fairly well cleaned up and opened — the whole thing,” Stinson said. “At least the road infrastructure open to the public like it once was. There are still power lines down that I’m working with SWEPCO to get up. Between the hurricanes and the ice storm and the river flooding, it’s just taken awhile to get that done.”

Stay tuned. For more information on the Red River National Wildlife Refuge, you may visit: www.fws.gov/refuge/red_river/

ON STANDS NOW!

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