NEW IBERIA, La. -- Thanks to the efforts of local historian Shane K. Bernard, Ph.D, the BNSF Railway Foundation awarded a $1,250 grant to purchase new benches, potted plants, and trash receptacles for New Iberia's century-old train station.
Hebert's Garden Center provided the pots and plants at a discount to assist the beautification project. Envision da Berry volunteers Phanat Xanamane and Sami Haggood, Bernard, and his uncle Oscar Bernard worked together to install the benches and planters.
"The new additions do wonders for the building and even had the engineers stopping by occasionally to say 'thank you' and 'the station really needed it,'" Haggood said.
The Acadian Heritage and Culture Foundation served as the surrogate recipient of the BNSF check because Envision da Berry is still in the process of becoming a formal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Bernard decorated the blank arrival/departure board with several items, including a World Championship Gumbo Cookoff poster donated by the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce. The Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau installed a visitor guide holder on the platform.
Louisiana & Delta Railroad, which uses the station as its headquarters, also fixed the platform light to assist nighttime Amtrak passengers. Local railroad enthusiast Bill Gesser removed a mangled portable toilet that was lying on its side in the field next to the tracks.
Finally, Bernard contacted Amtrak, which will shortly erect a new station sign and Amtrak kiosk. Bernard decided to approach BNSF after taking a train ride from New Iberia to Lafayette with his son for his birthday.
"The chairs, garbage can, and ashtray can that were on the platform were very old, timeworn, and, frankly, ugly," he recalled. "I could only imagine what tourists and others coming through town on the Amtrak trains must have thought when they saw the station. So I decided to do something about it. But it couldn't have been done without help from so many others."
"A big thank you to Shane for taking the initiative to act upon something that reflected badly on our community," said Fran Thibodeaux, Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau's executive director. "It's really refreshing to see how many people stepped up to help him get the job done. First impressions do make a difference in the minds of visitors and I'm so grateful to Shane and all those that contributed to beautify the station."
About the New Iberia Amtrak Station
The Texas and New Orleans Railroad built this single-story brick, Romanesque-style station in 1900 at 402 W. Washington St. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Amtrak offers tri-weekly train service, but does not provide ticketing and baggage services.