Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

SLIDELL, La. -- The U.S. Department of the Interior awarded the City of Slidell a $1.5 million grant to rebuild the Municipal Marina at Heritage Park, and the man who built the park calls it 'a great improvement.'

'It's a wonderful, wonderful addition to the park,' Sam Caruso said of the proposed upgrades. Caruso now sits on the Slidell City Council. He was the city's mayor from 1985 until 2002. Around 2000, Caruso said, he had the idea for the park.

'You know, I invented that park out of my head, and to see someone come along and add this to it is wonderful,' Sam Caruso said Wednesday. 'When I was Mayor, we put $128 million in capital improvements in place, that's the only thing that people still stop me and thank me for.'

The city of Slidell's grant is the maximum amount granted by the Department of the Interior, and it's the only project in the country to get the maximum amount. All together, federal funds will pay for 11 projects in 10 states. The Heritage Park project is the only one in Louisiana awarded money.

'It's awesome,' Slidell boater Steve Wicks said while dropping his boat into the water at the Heritage Park ramp. 'I would think it would just bring money and fishing industry over here a little more.'

According to the Department of the Interior, that's the purpose of the grant, 'to support recreational boating.'

A press release from the Department of the Interior describes the project by saying, 'The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will partner with the City of Slidell to renovate existing bulkheads, construct 42 additional floating lay along dock spaces, and install safe walkways for boaters to access the park and downtown area at its current Heritage Park location.'

Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan, City Councilman Bill Borchert and representatives from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will hold a press conference Friday morning to outline plans for the park.

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