Lovers of the Bayou Teche gathered at the Sliman Theater Monday evening for the last event of the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit in New Iberia.
“Where Does the Bayou Teche Go From Here?” was presented by local resident and TECHE Project member David Dahlquist, who guided event-goers on a history of the Bayou Teche, its local influence and the things the TECHE Project are doing to see the nationally designated waterway survive and thrive.
Dahlquist, an Iowa native, moved to the Teche Area in 2016 after having spent years working with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and Department of Recreation and Tourism.
After spending time in the Teche Area, Dahlquist said he and his wife fell in love with the Bayou Teche. Since then, he has been a member of the TECHE Project and currently serves as a board member.
“Tonight you’re going to hear a Yankee tell you about the Bayou Teche, how much more fun can you have?” he joked.
Dahlquist educated those attending on the Bayou Teche, a 135-mile waterway that runs from Arnaudville to Morgan City, and explained the historical, cultural and archeological significance of the bayou.
The TECHE Project is a non-profit organization that effectively functions as the advocate for the TECHE, and regularly engages in educational and practical efforts to sustain the bayou.
The organization was instrumental in having the Bayou Teche declared a National Water and Paddle Trail by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The distinction has only been given to 32 other waterways in the United States, and is currently the only one given to a Louisiana waterway.
Dahlquist also spoke about the kayak docks that the TECHE Project has worked to install in almost every community in the Teche Area.
More than $1 million has been spent on the implementation of the docks in communities all across the Bayou Teche, a result of the TECHE Project’s attempt to make the waterway more accessible and friendly to recreational boaters.
Dahlquist himself helped to design and implement kiosks next to the docks, which give unique histories and useful information for any canoer or kayaker who uses a dock for a paddle in the Teche.
“If you count all of the volunteer time, we’d be at an investment that would be at $1.5 million,” Dahlquist said.
The city of New Iberia will be one of the last communities to receive a dock in the Teche Area, which Dahlquist said should be installed off Duperier Avenue early next year.
The emphasis on a New Iberia waterway was part of the larger Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit that has been on display for a month in New Iberia.
The traveling exhibition has set up shop in downtown New Iberia thanks to a partnership with the Bayou Teche Museum, and has included a long list of events and lectures to educate the local community on the local and global importance of water in our everyday lives.
Seminars on water in art and water in poetry have also been held to give local residents a better idea of the artistic effect that the local water environment plays into the culture produced in the Teche Area.