Monday, April 6, 2009

Grand Isle, from a Visitors Perspective

While down here at Grand Isle, Louisiana we read a book on the Louisiana Coast, and to paraphrase one sentence it said, 'Grand Isle and the area around it is a place that could be a National Park, except for the oil wells'. We also heard it described, by a religious leader as a place where seventy percent of the people are going to hell! Another person, a commercial fisherman described it to us as a place teeming with fish. A final description is from a book on Jacque Lafayette, where the author describes the people as friendly and warm. All seem probably true, to an extent.......
Traveling down to Grand Isle, from Raceland, the road follows the Lafouche Bayou, an old Mississippi River channel. It is actually built on the old natural levee, like the one along New Orleans. You cross the chenaires, dotted with buildings, which are old sand dunes that marked the Gulfs edge. The salt marsh greets you and the egrets, and herons, and roseates look up in passing.
Arriving on the Isle the beach is full of shells, black skimmers fill the land on some points and dolphins seem to fill the waters, actually following you when you travel by boat, waiting to see if you are catching any fish.
Looking out, past the rocks you see oil platform after oil platform. Pumping stations dot the skyline and shrimp boats are everywhere and yet it's marred by the dead sea turtles washed ashore from a careless and illegal shrimper. The night sky is star filled but also filled with the loudest music coming from a bar called Daddy's Money,(If you stay here and value your sleep do not spend a weekend within a mile of the place).
Developers are building cottages on stilts called camps,(A camp is a place for vacations and has a name on it. The permanent residents don't name their homes or place flags on them when they are home as camp owners do). The place is buzzing with activity and money is being made.
Steven, a commercial fisherman regaled us with his stories of catching 300 pounds of kings by simply trolling to his fishing spots. He described catching blue runners and sheephead, and jacks, in thousands of pounds,(And all caught by hand lines with only a few hooks). "The place is a nursery for sharks", he stated and went on to say that Florida and the Atlantic are home for the larger adults,(I saw an account of a surf fisherman last summer catching four black tip sharks in a single day). Certainly the fishing here is the best I have experienced, along the Gulf, and no boat is necessary.
The people here can be said to be Grand Isles best asset, like many places but with a Cajun atmosphere. Listening to Rueben and Floyd, and Oben and Peco tell their stories. Meeting my sisters friend Mona as she come over to "vee eight", a cajun phrase meaning shoot the breeze,(and most definitely misspelled by me). Meeting a newcomer, Melissa, and watching her explain her jewelry making to Renita. Their accent, bearing, strength, and pride are so evident, as well as the pain from Katrina and Gustov and all the storms too numerous to mention.
So which of the above is a true picture and what will the Isle become? A place for only the very rich, a place for the party crowd, a fishermans paradise, a place overdeveloped like so many coastal islands, a place that stoically stands always perparing for the next hurricane? That friend, you will have to find out yourself. Our answer is that we look forward to returning here again and hoping the beauty is still here. Thank you Grand Isle for the stay. Clear skies.

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