West Florida Trail to officially open Saturday
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – The West Florida Republic Trail, a tour of the scenic byways of the region, will be officially launched Saturday (March 19), marking the grand finale of the Republic’s Bicentennial Celebration.
Scheduled at noon in St. Francisville, the capital of the short-lived nation, the event will be presided over by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. A 12-foot tall Lone Star monument will be dedicated with reenactments of the lowering of the Lone Star flag and raising of the American flag.
The trail crosses the Florida Parishes, from Slidell to St. Francisville, said Bicentennial Commission Chair Sam Hyde, Southeastern Louisiana University’s Leon Ford Chair of History.
“The trail is designed to stimulate tourism in the region by offering visitors an opportunity to follow some of the most scenic byways in the area with stops at sites relevant to the West Florida Republic’s revolt in each parish,” said Hyde, who is director of Southeastern Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies.
At the event, guests will be invited to sign a document that will be included in a time capsule to be buried in the park. For more information on the celebration or the trail, contact the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at 985-549-2151.
The event caps a year-long series of celebrations designed to call attention to the West Florida Republic, Hyde said.
“Most people do not realize that the Florida Parishes were not a part of the Louisiana Purchase,” he explained. “It took an armed insurrection against the Spanish government seven years after the Louisiana Purchase and an American invasion 74 days later to complete the state of Louisiana. The West Florida Revolt, as it came to be known, served as the starting point for a series of successful rebellions in Spanish controlled territories in the Americas that eventually led to hemispheric freedom from colonial rule.”
Hyde said most other regions that experienced uprisings against Spanish colonial rule, such as Texas and California, build much of their identity around the revolt against Spain.
“Texas flies the Lone Star flag, which first flew over the state of West Florida, and California has a bear on their state flag in commemoration of the Bear Flag Revolt that led to that state’s liberation from Spanish rule,” he said.
In each of those states, cultural events and historic sites highlight the relevance of the independent republics that briefly existed prior to being absorbed by the United States, he added.
“In Louisiana, however, the dramatic events connected to the West Florida Revolt are hardly evident,” Hyde explained. “We’re hoping the events associated with the bicentennial celebration and culminating with the establishment of this trail will focus attention on the importance of the West Florida Revolt and its relevance in defining the identity of southeast Louisiana.”
Along the trail, visitors will be able to stop at more than 15 sites connected to the revolt while enjoying the scenic beauty and topographical diversity of southeast Louisiana.
The trail begins at Slidell and proceeds west through Mandeville and Madisonville along Hwy. 22 before turning north on Hwy. 51 through Tangipahoa Parish. At Amite, the trail continues east along Hwy. 16 to Franklinton where it resumes a westward direction along Hwy. 10 through Greensburg, Clinton, Jackson and into St. Francisville. From there, the trail proceeds south to Baton Rouge and Prairieville before continuing to Galvez, Port Vincent and finally Springfield where it concludes at I-12, which appropriately is named “The Republic of West Florida Parkway.”