Wetlands Watchers celebrates 20 year anniversary
No matter how many times he’s seen and done this himself, Barry Guillot gets excited all over again each time he has the chance to introduce a brand new audience to so many of the great things nature can provide.
“To have a them go experience it for the first time and see their faces … man, as a teacher, that’s what really makes you happy,” Guillot said.
With that in mind, he hopes to see several new — and also returning — faces on Saturday, when Wetlands Watchers celebrates its 20 year anniversary with its Family Day at Wetlands Watchers Park, which will host several activities for children and adults alike, as well as the chance to interact with several fun critters one doesn’t get the chance to see on a daily basis.
“Holding a baby kangaroo, that’s a life-changing experience,” Guillot said with a chuckle. “I remember the first time I held one, and it was just, ‘oh my gosh,’… I love teaching kids about what we have out here. It gets them off their video games and phones and out into nature, and this is a way to get families out here to make some memories.”
The event, which Wetlands Watchers has partnered with Shell Norco to put on, will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature hands on activities with Biggie, the aforementioned baby kangaroo; Mojo the coatimundi; Gronk, the 17-foot python and Lala, the baby albino wallaby. Also on hand will be Guillot’s own group of reptiles, including snakes and baby alligators.
There will also be nature trail tours and cast netting training, as well as the chance to learn how to identify the critters scooped using two way magnifiers.
Guillot said that he hopes to see many former students and members of Wetland Watchers come out for the anniversary celebration and bring their families to see how far it has come over the years.
“It’s kind of like an open house,” said Guillot, a science teacher at Harry Hurst who established the Wetlands Watchers program locally. “I remember the first year we were out here and it was basically just a big mud puddle … we used to spread leaves over it. Now we have this beautiful trail. Our park’s as close to a state park as you can be, really, (with the trail) and so many beautiful piers for everyone to go experience.
“So many kids have been a part of this over the years and maybe moved away, gone to do other things. We’d love to have them come back and show their families how it’s changed.”
“Holding a baby kangaroo, that’s a life-changing experience.” –Barry Guillot
Jambalaya, hot dogs and drinks will be served as well, and Wetland Watchers T-shirts will be sold. Proceeds from food, drink, T-shirt and print sales will go toward the Wetlands Watchers program, which promotes environmental awareness among students, engaging them them through Wetlands Watchers Park, which was created from 26 acres of reclaimed land in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, an environment to watch over the LaBranche Wetlands.
The event officially runs until 2 p.m., but the activities at the park are not through at that point. At 5 p.m. the annual Haunted History Hike begins, where student volunteers guide tourgoers though a history timeline of the area, from the days of Native Americans to when pirates roamed the water.
“There are both scary and non-scary tours available,” Guillot said. “It’s just a wonderful experience to walk on the trail at night. You see the stars and hear voices you don’t during the day. It’s our fifth year with the Haunted History Hike and it’s been very popular.”