Parish’s newest attraction opens Saturday

Education, recreation go hand-in-hand at Wetland Watchers Park

Residents from around the area will get their first look at St. Charles Parish’s most unique attraction with the grand opening of Wetland Watchers Park on Oct. 2.

And with festivities that include a performance by Amanda Shaw, hands-on presentations with snakes and baby alligators, and delicious food like crawfish monica and pastalaya, residents are sure to enjoy themselves.

The park, which sits to the east of the Bonnet Carre Spillway’s lower guide levee on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, has been in the works for six years. The completed first phase consists of picnic pavilions, a playground, park benches, and a 900-foot-long nature trail.

An outdoor classroom, which was built using money from Dow Chemical, also stands in the center of a palmetto forest, within which some plants are more than 400 years old. Here students and patrons will be able to interface with and learn about nature at the same time.

Phase II will eventually add fishing piers, a canoe/kayak launch and learning pads that will point out different activities that can be performed at the site.

For example, one pad will feature bird watching with mounted binoculars.

The grand opening will kick off with a performance from Shaw at noon. The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.
The celebration will have food booths selling jambalaya, white beans, pastalaya, crawfish monica and drinks and desserts. There will also be giveaways and face painting.
The Wetland Watchers, Corps of Engineers, and the Nicholls State University Biology Department will all have information booths at the event, while New Orleans Hornets Honeybees will sign autographs and raffle off club-level seats.

The Harry Hurst Middle School choir and the school’s cheerleaders will be on hand to serenade and pump up the crowd.

All proceeds from sales and other fundraising activities at the event will help south Louisiana residents and wildlife affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The park has been a longtime goal of Harry Hurst Middle School teacher Barry Guillot, who in 1998 founded the service-learning project for which the park is named.

The LaBranche Wetland Watchers program allows students to engage in science and learn about the many challenges facing wetlands in southeast Louisiana. Each year, more than 1,500 5th through 8th grade students attend trips to the site to complete water monitoring, macro-invertebrate collection and identification, litter cleanup, soil and plant identification and much more.

Though the 28 acres that the park sits upon were donated to the parish six years ago, the idea for the park actually began to take shape 12 years ago. That’s when Guillot adopted land in the area so that he would have a place to take his 7th grade students. Soon after Guillot began taking his class to the LaBranche Wetlands, the trip turned into one for all 7th grade students at Harry Hurst.


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