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Audubon Louisiana Nature Center Restoration Begins

2014-01-23

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 24, 2014

Media Contacts:

Frank Donze
504-212-5335, Cell - 504-232-7461
fdonze@auduboninstitute.org
Katie Smith
504-378-2693, cell-504-278-0542
ksmith@auduboninstitute.org
 

Audubon Louisiana Nature Center Restoration Begins
Groundbreaking Ceremony: Friday, January 24, 2014

(New Orleans, La.) – Audubon Nature Institute officials and a host of elected officials and community leaders will gather Friday to launch the restoration of Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, a project that will return the sprawling eastern New Orleans attraction to its proper place as a treasured green space for family recreation and environmental education.

Demolition of Hurricane Katrina-damaged structures has begun and plans call for construction to commence later this year on the first phase of a dynamic, new Nature Center on the 86-acre site in Joe Brown Park, with a grand opening of the project’s first phase scheduled for 2015. The Nature Center’s return represents a significant milestone in the recovery of the New Orleans east community.

“We’re proud and happy the Nature Center is on its way back to New Orleans East,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “As a vital, engaged community resource, the new Nature Center is certain to inspire a deeper and enduring appreciation of our natural world for all who visit.’’

The $8.4 million, Phase 1 restoration will bring back many of the popular features that were built in the years following the Nature Center’s 1980 opening, including a planetarium, an 8,500-square-foot Exhibit Pavilion, a glass and steel greenhouse Botany Center, classrooms, interactive educational exhibits,  a network  of trails and covered boardwalks and extensive landscaping. The design will allow for exhibits to be moved easily to convert indoor space for community events.

Built three decades ago to address an urgent community need for environmental education programming, the Nature Center will take advantage of technological advances and new construction techniques that have become more environmentally friendly and hurricane resistant. The replacement facility will be constructed to meet today’s standards while anticipating future community needs.

The Louisiana Nature Center opened its doors on March 23,1980, offering a scenic interpretation of the Mississippi River Delta and Louisiana Coastal Zone in Joe Brown Park. It was among the first facilities of its kind to receive and maintain accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

In 1993, the Nature Center’s board of trustees approached the Audubon Nature Institute about a merger. Recognizing that the two organizations shared a commitment to inspire people of all ages to appreciate the natural world, an agreement was forged a year later to take advantage of Audubon’s proficiency in development, marketing, finance and human resources.

Renamed “Audubon Louisiana Nature Center,’’ the attraction thrived under its new structure, welcoming about 85,000 annual visitors including 45,000 students who were served by outreach programs.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath left the Nature Center under six feet of water for more than a month.  Its forests were severely damaged and its interpretive spaces were destroyed.  The Nature Center has remained closed since the storm as Audubon’s leadership met with representatives of FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, city and state government and community leaders to map out a restoration strategy.

The city of New Orleans recently launched a major rebuilding effort in Joe Brown Park, restoring recreational areas and adding two new stadiums for high school football and track. The Nature Center restoration is an integral part of the master plan for the area.
The new, state-of-the-art facility will introduce generations of Louisiana and Gulf Coast families to the wonders of the fragile ecosystems that they call home.

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