In the spring of 1957, when I was five years old, Alvin Green of Bernice was busy attending public meetings, convincing his neighbors to sell flowage rights on their family land and making countless trips to Baton Rouge asking for money for this area.
He could have been fishing in his favorite spots along Bayou D’Arbonne or the Ouachita River, but he wasn’t. He was working diligently as an unpaid volunteer member of the newly formed D’Arbonne Lake Watershed Commission trying to move Lake D’Arbonne from a dream to a reality. That year, the Louisiana State Legislature appropriated more than a million dollars with promises of more for the project. On December 20, Green and other members of the Lake Commission
joined with state officials at Green Clinic in Ruston and signed the papers authorizing the construction of the lake.
That was the easy part. It took six years and two more million for the work to be completed. In 1963, the gates were closed and what we enjoy as Lake D’Arbonne today was born. I just have one thing to say to Green: Thank you!
Green, at 88 years old, is the only surviving member of that original commission. I had the pleasure of spending a morning with him recently and I’ll be sharing some of his stories in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did.
“I really don’t remember exactly how it all came about,” he says. “I remember that they called a meeting in Farmerville and Fred Preaus from Farmerville, who was head of the state highway department, headed it up. They asked if there is an interest in building a lake. We heard how towns that had gotten lakes had really taken off. That’s all it took. People decided that night we’d go for it. We got excited about it.”
“The more people heard about lakes and what they could do for the economy, the more the excitement grew,” he said. “Our state Senator, B.R. Patton, and Representative T.T. Fields got behind it and got the bill passed. Then the real work began.”
At first, everybody was for the lake. But nobody knew for sure where it would go. It was pretty obvious that the main corporate landowners would be the T.L. James Company and Manville (Olin) paper company. They were pretty neutral. But when the state engineers came around and painted a red line where the lake would be, it raised somewhat of a problem.
“My family ended up being the largest private landowner with land in the lake. That’s how I ended up on the Lake Commission,” he says with a laugh. “We had 1,468 acres that would be flooded. I was still for it. But when my mother and my sisters found out what we were losing, Whew! They got pretty mad at me.”
There were several other families against it at first because they would lose so much land. “I had to go talk to the Baughman, Dozier and Hamilton families and tell them how badly we needed this. We were all friends and neighbors and they agreed to sell flowage rights. And even though they lost a lot of land to the lake, the land they kept around the lake did become worth a lot more.”
Good thing. The price for flowage rights was a whopping $16.50 an acre!
MORE TO COME…