SAREPTA — Sharon Maples has lived on Cook Baker Road between Sarepta and Springhill for 12 years and is more excited about the economic potential coming with Muddy Bottoms ATV Park than worried about the influx of traffic around and on the road.
"I think it's a great thing for the area," she said. "I think it will bring in a lot of business and boost the economy."
And it should — with as many as 30,000 mud riding enthusiasts convening in north Webster Parish next month as Muddy Bottoms officially opens Memorial Day weekend.
The potential problem — two lanes. Parish public works and law enforcement officials have been meeting for months to prepare for the inundation of people on the roads.
The park is located at the end of George Taylor Road off U.S. Highway 371 in Porterville. Not only is the highway two lanes, but the road going into the park is a two-lane parish road with no shoulders, though it does widen into a five-lane check-in and holding area inside the park.
"(George Taylor Road) is in pretty good shape, but not pretty good shape for the traffic that's going to be hitting it," District 3 parish police juror Daniel Thomas said during a jury road committee meeting Wednesday.
One potential problem lies at the entrance of the park where Cook Baker Road road adjoins George Taylor Road to the south. Jurors worried there may be even more congestion if those going in and out of the park use Cook Baker Road.
Traffic on U.S. 371 may also back up for miles as there is no turn lane or traffic signal at George Taylor Road.
Thomas mentioned the possibility of the state installing turn or through lanes, but jury president Jim Bonsall said the state most likely will not invest in the highway until officials see exactly how much traffic will be affected.
That potential back up prompted Webster Sheriff Gary Sexton to not only put on additional patrols but also enlist assistance from Louisiana State Police, both on the ground and in the air.
"If you start getting this amount of traffic backed up and there is a crash, it may be difficult for emergency personnel to get in and out," Sexton said.
Springhill police chief Will Lynd is also putting extra patrols on the road.
"We will have extra patrols to basically sit back and see what problems we run into, and hopefully there are none," Lynd said. "Nobody really has any idea what kind of trouble we're going to have. You've got people coming in from all directions, and there's not a set time it begins, so I hope they trickle in a little at a time."
On-duty deputies nor Springhill police will not provide security at Muddy Bottoms, but will respond to criminal matters like any other call in their respective jurisdictions.
"The deputies that are working are not going to be taken off (duty) for Muddy Bottoms," Sexton said. "We're going to take care of the whole parish. We will have additional deputies."
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