The 31-mile Tammany Trace was originally a corridor for the Illinois Central Railroad, and in 1992 was purchased by the St. Tammany Parish Government for the purposes of remodeling the railroad trestles and tracks into a walking, running, biking, skating, and equestrian trail. One of the many old railroad stations has been repurposed into the Mandeville Trailhead, a lovely, airy area for outdoor activities.
Location: 675 Lafitte St., Mandeville, LA 70448 985.624.3147 It is in Old Mandeville nestled inside General Pershing, Girod, Woodrow, and Lafitte Streets. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Unique Features: Amphitheater, splash pad, museum, free music concerts, a Saturday morning open-air market, and a bike rental stand across Woodrow Street.
Food and drink: Vending machines are located under the stairwell of the tower, a concession stand opens on the Lafitte side next to the amphitheater during events, there is a snowball stand across Woodrow Street next to the parking lot, and Old Rail Brewing Company restaurant is across Girod Street. Hours of operation for all vary.
Playground equipment: This area does not have any playground equipment, but there is plenty of open grassy space and a splash pad available.
Surface: Grass and concrete.
Restrooms: There are two sets of restrooms on both the Girod Street and Lafitte Street ends of the park.
Shade: There is plenty of open space that is covered at times with tree shade.
Sports Fields: There are none, however, the Tammany Trace runs through the park and is easily accessible for anyone to walk, jog, horseback ride, rollerblade, roller skate, or bike the trail. No pets are allowed on the trail. No skateboards or roller skates/blades are allowed in the park itself.
Parking: There is a fair amount of parking along Woodrow Street directly adjacent to the park. There is additional parking along General Pershing too. I visited on a pretty Sunday afternoon and was able to get a space along Woodrow, however the parking lot on that side was almost to capacity. Street parking is available around the blocks of the surrounding area as well.
I visited the park on a Sunday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised at the level of activity considering it does not have playground equipment. Children were playing around the splash pad with parents watching on the numerous benches set up around that area, people were walking and riding bikes along the trace, and an exercise class was happening with music. The green space around the amphitheater is a bowl shape, perfect for little ones to get dizzy rolling down the side and the area is adorned with strings of lights around the trees.
There are some historic visuals around the park, including a lighthearted illustration of the “ABC’s of Mandeville,” an illustration of the Lake Ponchartrain Basin, and a display of some local points of interest. The concrete around the splash pad also includes a colorful map of the United States.
On the Girod Street side, there is a lookout tower area, which is accessible by a large set of stairs, so those who have little ones who like to climb may be getting a good workout at the same time going up and down the stairs too. There is ample space and tree shade for a picnic or outdoor activities.
I was unable to access the museum at the time of my visit, but as I understand, there is additional historical displays inside that highlight the city of Mandeville.
My overall impression of the park is that it is a great place to explore local vendors’ goods on Saturday mornings, it is a perfect starting point for exploring the Tammany Trace, and it provides some cool relief from the heat with the splash pad and ample shade. The amphitheater area is open and visually pleasing, and there are some opportunities to share treats and spend time as a family eating snowballs or simply lounging around in the shade enjoying the outdoors. While it is not a traditional playground, it is a functional and community-based green space very well utilized.
Entertainment changes seasonally. For artist lineups, dates and times of events, and vendors at the open-air market, visit http://www.mandevilletrailheadmarket.com/. The Mandeville Trailhead website is http://www.tammanytrace.org/index.php/points-of-interest/mandeville-trailhead .
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