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Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief
Email: dmouton@wwltv.com | Twitter: @dmoutonwwl

SLIDELL, LA -- Parish leaders called it a great day for St. Tammany, as the parish officially opened it's new fishing pier in Slidell.

It's located off the Oak Harbor exit of I-10, at the base of the new Twin Span Bridge. The fishing pier isn't complete, but Phase One is ready. Friday morning, hundreds of eager anglers brought their bait and fishing poles and tried out the new bridge.

'I think it's beautiful. It's nice. It's in a good spot. Wonderful, nice and clean,' Jenetta Claude said. She and her family came from New Orleans to fish, and pulled the first four fish out of Lake Pontchartrain from the new pier. 'I think I'll catch a lot of fish here,' Claude added. 'I'll be here all the time to catch fish.'

The idea was born out of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, which left the old Twin Span Bridge in tatters.

'As everybody tries to put all this back together,' Bob Beck of Eden Isles recalled, 'and I look out here and say, how are we going to make lemonade out of all these lemons, and this is one of them.'

Beck brought his idea to then St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, who he said, took the idea and ran with it.'I was here right after Katrina and saw all the destruction,' Davis, now Louisiana's Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Friday. 'So it's kind of a part of me letting go. To see families and people come out to the Lake, and that was our vision.'

Davis spoke with emotion when recounting his Katrina memories as a grand opening ceremony on the bridge. St. Tammany Parish Councilman Richie Artigue as also instrumental in helping Davis get the idea rolling, and Davis credited current St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister with keeping the idea moving.

For now, it's three dollars to fish on the new pier, one dollar to sightsee, and kids under 12 are free. The pier closes at 8pm, although parish leaders hope to eventually bring night fishing to the pier, but they say, that will be in later phases of the project, which both Kevin Davis and Bob Beck said is more beautiful than they imagined.

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