Here’s something interesting for you to chew on:

A canoe/kayak enthusiast in this very community paddled with 22 people through the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge during the weekend of the Bear Festival. Those visitors included folks from four states and Canada.

In all, since my friend has been encouraging paddlers to come to St. Mary Parish to sample our locales, 13 states and seven countries have been represented.

By and large, they’ve all been overwhelmed by what we’ve got here.

If, for instance, those 22 people during the festival weekend spent just $100 each, we’re talking $2,200 some local businesses would realize profit. In one weekend. Never mind the priceless value of "word of mouth."

Okay, bear with me now: Immediately some no-account wearing blinders is going to start scoffing, spouting off, "That dang Stouff, he don’t care about nothing but canoes in that dang refuge Small change. We got bigger problems!"

You know, of course, to ignore such simpletons, right?

It’s frustrating sometimes, when we elect people to represent and enhance us, and then they puh-shaw ideas just because it’s not big.

I’m talking pieces of a pie. I can take a pie and cut it into virtually as many pieces as I want. Half. Quarters. Eighths. Whatever.

And that’s what we’ve got here, and what we should be working on: A very large pie called St. Mary Parish, and we can cash in on every piece of it if we’ll just stop scoffing at what we perceive to be small change in favor of, certainly possible, but still less likely, big bills.

I certainly am still applauding location of tenants at both our ports, and I’m still pushing for – sometimes harshly – development of our industrial park facility on the Baldwin Canal.

But I don’t want us to lose sight of the pieces of the pie. We’ve got so much to offer here. We just need to take the blinders off, stop scoffing at the so-called "small change" and work it all out.

Here’s what my friend tells me that canoe/kayak enthusiasts like: To spend as much time outside as possible, and they’re willing to pay for it. They drive nice vehicles with canoes and ‘yaks that cost anywhere from a grand to two grand or more. They carry these on racks that cost four or five hundred bucks. They like to tour the areas they paddle, too, on-water and off.

What they’d prefer is to have a camping area, preferably very close to the point where they’d launch for their day of touring. Most like to camp. Really camp, not just RV. Pitch a tent, in other words. Most would rather not stay in a motel, admittedly, because they’re eager for the outdoors experience.

By and large, they wish that in addition to all these fantastic scenes and refuges and canals and bayous, we had just a few simple accommodations for them.

A simple campground would be a mighty fine place to start.

Not much needed: Restrooms and rudimentary showers are essential. Other than that, places to pitch a tent, a few lights. I’m thinking of a few spots on Bayou Teche in Franklin that would be quite nice for such a thing. I’m thinking the wooded area next to the Willow Street bridge opposite Eastwood? I’m thinking, near the boat landing at the opposite end of Willow Street at the Franklin Canal? There are possibilities.

Envision this: The city’s plan to turn the Center Theater into an open-air plaza. For the purpose of this discussion only, it doesn’t matter if the façade is saved or removed. Main Street and Teche Drive are then linked to Bayou Teche through that corridor where the Center is, and lead to Parc sur la Teche which would look out over the campground.

Okay, so we get 100 paddling visitors a month, and they each spend $50-$100 bucks in town. That’s a $5,000-10,000 piece of the pie we didn’t have before.

Now, dear Parish Council officials, I honestly don’t mean this in a negative way, I promise: But, if we can build a multi-million dollar golf course for one set of enthusiasts, maybe we can all get together, parish, city, tourism, and find a way to spend a few dollars to attract another set of enthusiasts? Maybe a few sets?

No, I don’t mean take my word. I don’t mean take my friend’s word. But a sit-down with a group of clubs and organizations to hear first-hand what they’re looking for might be very lucrative, no?

I’m just starting there. Let’s still think about fishermen. Bicyclists might use that campground…there’s that Old Spanish Trail bicycle trail-path-route right there running smack dab through town. Let’s think about birdwatchers. Scouting troops. There’s people out there that will spend good money to experience a quiet canal full of Spanish moss dangling from oaks and cypress and turning a bend in the bayou to find a rookery of wading and shore birds. Good money.

Let’s think about folks just visiting for festivals, who might be staying at a local bed and breakfast, an inn, and looking for something to do. Let’s say we do get a big tenant at one of the ports or the industrial park that hires folks with money and looking for things to do.

To paraphrase Field of Dreams, If you build it, will they come? I don’t know for certain, of course. But it’s obvious if you don’t build it, they won’t.

Pieces of the pie, and they’re so easy to slice and serve. As long as we can learn to quit scoffing at the small change, not lose our focus on the big picture, but realize that all wholes are a sum of their parts.