Lake Pontchartrain field day a NATURAL with schoolkids

WET N' WILD. Luling Elementary students haul in a batch of tasty blue crabs at the annual Wetland Watchers field day on Lake Pontchartrain.

A mountain of fill and a lot of hard work are paying off in a big way for the Wetland Watcher’s Nature Park in Norco.

Grass is growing, a large pier jettisons far out into the Lake, and the shoreline is neat and even.

On a breezy spring day, 650 hootin’, hollerin’ schoolkids and 200 brave volunteers got to enjoy the improvements first-hand while learning about our wetlands at the annual Wetland Watchers field day.

Ongoing construction of 27 acres along Lake Pontchartrain in the Bonnet Carre Spillway is turning the site into a world-class nature park complete with trees, fishing pier and a nature walk through the LaBranche wetlands.

But that wasn’t the case just three years ago. “Hurricane Katrina devastated the already badly eroded shoreline,” said Milton Cambre, chairman of the Coastal Zone Citizens advisory committee for St. Charles Parish.

Rubble lined what was left of the shoreline and Katrina destroyed the pier.

Cambre has worked non-stop to save the LaBranche wetlands since 1973.

After Katrina, Cambre said “a turning point” for the future park occurred when the Pontchartrain levee board donated the 27-acre tract to the parish.

Local industry donated enough money to get the project started.

And Barry Guilliot and his nationally-acclaimed Wetland Watchers science class – who use the site to study wetlands – have brought national-media attention to the park.

Fed by the Labranche wetlands, this isn’t just any spot along Lake Pontchartrain – it’s a paradise for fish and wildlife and easily accessible from Airline Highway (the turn off is just before the Bonnet Carre Spillway).

Crabs, redfish, speckled trout and alligators are abundant around the fishing pier.

“Crabbing has been hot for the past six weeks, says Cambre, adding that alligators are swarming, too.

“The crabbers leave their turkey necks in the water and the alligators come out in the evening and eat them.”

Even now, improvements to the property and fishing pier are attracting plenty of visitors.

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