Hike Location: Restoration Park
Geographic Location: West Monroe, LA (32.50802, -92.17211)
Length: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: December 2019
Overview: A gravel and boardwalk lollipop loop through an old sand/gravel mine.
Park Information: https://www.monroe-westmonroe.org/places-to-discover-details.cfm?id=105
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=778738
Directions to the trailhead: In West Monroe, take I-20 to Downing Pine Road (exit 113). Exit and go south on Downing Pine Rd. The signed parking lot for Restoration Park is on the left less than 0.5 miles south of I-20. Park in the only lot.
The hike: Owned and maintained by the City of West Monroe, tiny Restoration Park protects 70 acres just south of busy I-20. Before it became a park, a sand/gravel mine operated here for more than 50 years. After the mine was fully depleted in the 1970’s, the site became an unofficial landfill where many people illegally dumped their trash. The City of West Monroe purchased the land in 1989, and after 14 years of clean-up and development the park opened to the public in 2003.
Today the old sand/gravel mine has been converted to a wetland that is traversed by a nice wooden boardwalk. The park is too small to be a major hiking destination, but its simple trail system with two loops makes a nice leg-stretcher hike if you need a break from driving boring I-20 across northern Louisiana. While not the longest possible loop, the route described here offers good bird watching by taking you across the wetland boardwalk, the trail system’s main feature.
|Trailhead at Restoration Park|
The gravel entrance trail leaves the rear of the parking area and curves left around a park restroom/maintenance building to reach a wooden information board. Continuing a couple hundred feet past the information board brings you to the trail intersection that forms the outer loop. To get to the boardwalk, turn right and walk across an arched iron bridge with wooden deck.
|Arched iron bridge|
The gravel trail winds through mixed pine and deciduous forest and soon approaches the park’s south boundary. Numerous woodpeckers pecking on trees got my attention. An industrial and professional park soon appears across the south boundary. At 0.25 miles, the trail forks to form our loop. Continue straight to maintain an eastbound course along the park’s south boundary and hike our loop counterclockwise.
|Hiking through woodlands|
Next the former sand/gravel mine turned wetland area comes into view to the left. The mostly open water appeared reflective but dark on my visit, and I saw some waterfowl here including herons and egrets. Some wooden platforms overlook the wetland, and some interpretive signs help you identify common plants in the forest.
|Boardwalk in wetland|
At the 1/2 mile marker, you reach a trail intersection where the boardwalk begins. Turn left to leave the outer loop and walk across the boardwalk. The excellent wooden boardwalk had been recently rebuilt on my visit, and it takes you across the open water, thus allowing for good wildlife viewing. Walk slowly across this boardwalk to see what you can see.
|Wetland view from boardwalk|
|Second, muddier pond|
At the other end of the boardwalk, the trail curves left and passes by a second pond that has muddier water than the first one. Traffic noise from nearby I-20 filters in here. The final segment of the loop takes you along the west rim of the old sand/gravel pit. At 0.8 miles, you close the loop. Turn right and retrace your steps to the trailhead to complete the hike. Alternatively, you could turn left and hike around the entire outer loop if you want more distance and do not mind highway noise.