Work To Start This Summer On Nature Center Closed By Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Work will begin this summer toward reopening an 86-acre eastern New Orleans nature center closed since Hurricane Katrina, the Audubon Nature Institute says.

         The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center is in Joe Brown Park, which was under six feet of water for a month after the hurricane hit in August 2005, destroying buildings and nature walks and damaging forests.

         The Audubon Commission voted last week to award a $7 million construction contract to BelouMagner Construction of Metairie.

         Plans include 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, extensive landscaping and parking. Exhibits will be easily moveable to create indoor space for community events.

         Work on a maintenance building has begun.

         The Louisiana Nature Center opened in March 1980, with exhibits and signs about the Mississippi River Delta and Louisiana Coastal Zone. It was among the first facilities of its kind to receive and maintain accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

         It became part of the Audubon Nature Institute in 1994. Its 85,000 annual visitors included 45,000 students on field trips.

         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.

         Demolition of flood-damaged structures was largely completed last year.

         The city of New Orleans has launched a major rebuilding effort in Joe Brown Park, restoring recreational areas and adding two new stadiums for high school football and track.

 

 

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