Nice day to celebrate

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2011



NORCO – A small patch of the western shore of Lake Pontchartrain was the classroom setting for more than 800 St. Charles Parish school students who engaged in various wetland activities Tuesday as part of the annual Wetland Watchers Celebration at Wetland Watcher Park.

The party, which featured live music from Amanda Shaw and various nature-oriented games, is the culmination of classroom activities organized by the Wetland Watchers.

Project coordinator Barry Guillot of Harry Hurst Middle School said the group, composed of high school and eighth-grade students, reaches out to younger students to get them involved in the program.

“The target age has always been fifth-grade students,” Guillot said. “It is a good age because they are just starting to understand the science involved in protecting the wetland areas. This celebration shows them what they have learned throughout the year.”

Representatives from LSU, the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality joined several area corporate sponsors to conduct a wide range of hands on activities associated with life in the Louisiana wetlands. Students learned about animals, organisms, water quality and protection for the future.

There were also water exhibits along the park’s pier, where students learned about salinity, turbidity, crabbing, crawfish and cast nets. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Marine Division also showed off boats and equipment they use for rescues and investigations.

Guillot said members of the Wetland Watchers, the Destrehan High School WISE Club and the Hahnville High School Green Club guided students throughout the day as they moved from station to station throughout the 28-acre park, which recently completed the first phase of improvements.

Guillot said the Wetland Watcher program and the vision of a the new park would not have been possible without the support of Norco resident Milton Cambre, an avid wetlands advocate of over 40 years.

“The area of the park where the picnic tables are located was all water eight years ago,” Guillot said. “None of that land would be there without [Cambre’s] work.”

Guillot said Cambre teamed up with his Wetland Watchers group for student field trips, and that shaped the plan of the park as it is today. Phase one of the improvements to the park included a grand pavilion and 900-foot-long nature trail, outdoor classroom, picnic pavilions, an armored shoreline and blacktop roadways.

Guillot said future improvements include a canoe launch, two additional outdoor classrooms and a paved road along the levee leading to the park.