Saint Bernard Parish

Saint Bernard Parish is in Louisiana, at the southern edge of the Greater New Orleans region. (A Louisiana "Parish" is the equivalent of a "county" in other states.)

Cities

Understand

The Parish, or "Da Parish" as locals often refer to it, borders the east bank of the Missisisppi River. To the west and north is the city of New Orleans. Downriver to the south is the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.

Saint Bernard was even more devastated than New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 - though as many locals can tell you, the majority of the damage wasn't from the Hurricane per se (detailed below). As of 2012 "Da Parish" is certainly back, though recovery and rebuilding are an ongoing process.

There are no incorporated communities in St. Bernard, so the names of towns and places are sometimes more a matter of what locals traditionally call a location than any legally set boundaries. (Just a heads up not to worry, for example, if that little restaurant you came across in what your road maps shows as the town of "Violet" has "Chalmette" printed on the menu and the mailing address listed as "Meraux".)

Background

Kenilworth Plantation House (originally Bienvenu), in St. Bernard's Terre aux Boeufs region, dates back to the 1750s.

The main roots of St. Bernard go back to the French and Spanish colonial era; the majority of the population still have Spanish or French family names. One notable ethnic group is the Isleño population; a large group of people from the Spanish Canary Islands, known as "Isleños", settled in the Parish in the second half of the 1700s. While Louisiana passed to the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Isleño Spanish dialect was still common to hear in some smaller towns and rural areas well into the 20th century. While some locals keep the traditional Isleño songs and folklore alive, English is now universally understood here -- though locals may speak it with an accent unlike that usually found in the U.S.'s deep south.

In 1927 the Mississippi River was at historically high levels, and burst its banks many places further up river. The city of New Orleans's levees were right at the edge of being overtopped. A group of New Orleans bankers hatched a plan to blow up a levee in St. Bernard in order to relieve pressure on the levees of New Orleans. This was done, flooding much of the Parish. The New Orleans bankers had promised generous compensation for the people of St. Bernard beforehand, but delivered very little (many people affected got nothing at all). Local resentment of New Orleans continued for generations.

In 1965, much of the Parish was flooded when Hurricane Betsy hit Louisiana. Many locals blamed much of the flooding on a then new navigation canal, the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal or MRGO, commonly called "Mister Go", which they said funneled in storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico right into the populated area, acting as a "Hurricane Highway". The Army Corps of Engineers denied the MRGO had any link to the flooding.

In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, walls of floodwaters several meters high crashed through the entire Parish, flooding on a scope that dwarfed previous disasters. A series of independent investigations afterwards eventually made clear that the Parish locals had been right all along: MRGO indeed served as a "superhighway for storm surge", making MRGO, along with a series of badly misdesigned levees, the cause of most of the flooding in Greater New Orleans in 2005. The MRGO Canal was deactivated, and a barrier closing it off completed in 2009. A system of much improved levees and floodwalls is nearing completion. However the environmental damage that had already been caused by the engineering mistake of MRGO is estimated to be in the many billions of dollars range, and there is at present no plan nor suggested funding to repair it.

As fishing has long been an important industry here, the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010 dealt another blow to the Parish.

St. Bernard Parish, despite the problems, is resilient. While the population is only about half what it was in 2005, those who are back here are working hard to rebuild the home that they love.

Get in

Unless you're downriver in Plaquemines Parish, the only land routes into Saint Bernard are through New Orleans. From Interstate 10 in Eastern New Orleans take I-510 south; after passing through a bit of marshland this will turn into Paris Road and lead you right in the center of Chalmette. The other roads in from New Orleans are via the Lower 9th Ward; cross the Industrial Canal on either St. Claude Avenue (which will become St. Bernard Highway after passing the Parish line) or Claiborne Avenue (which will become Judge Perez Drive on the St. Bernard side of the line). There is also a vehicle ferry from the West Bank of the Mississippi River, from the lower coast of Algiers to Chalmette.

Get around

Automobile is the most practical way to get around.

By public transit, St. Bernard is linked to New Orleans by New Orleans Regional Transit bus line 88, "St. Claude/Jackson Barracks", which runs from Canal & Rampart street in New Orleans to St. Claude at Aycock Street in Arabi.

This connects with the St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit (SBURT) transit route at St. Claude & Mehele, running down Judge Perez Highway from Arabi to the town of Poydras, Weekdays daytime only.

See

Do

Eat

Several restaurant options listed in the Chalmette article (including some in neighboring Meraux). Some more restaurants and cafes are scattered around other communities. Seafood and po-boy shops are the most popular. The Parish is more of a down home eats than a haute cuisine place.

Drink

Connect

Area code is 504, same as in New Orleans.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.