NEW ORLEANS -- The demolition crew began tearing down the Audubon Nature Center Friday, but it wasn't a sad occasion. Instead the jazz band played because eight years after the Katrina flood ruined it, the Nature Center is being rebuilt.
"The Nature Center was crucial to New Orleans East, and we are so happy to have it back," said New Orleans East state Representative Austin Badon.
The Louisiana Nature Center opened in 1980, and entertained and educated up to 80,000 visitors a year, 65,000 in 2004, the last full year of operation. Many Action Reports took place here as a generation learned about our environment.
"For me, it was a spiritual experience, being out in the wilderness," reminisced New Orleans East resident Janet Salahuddin-Tate.
Friday, Janet was part of the crowd braving the cold as civic leaders released butterflies to signal the start of reconstruction. Much of the funding for the eight million dollar project comes from FEMA. The 86 acre site will include a mile of boardwalk trails through the marsh. There will be some familiar features: an exhibit pavilion, greenhouse, educational exhibits, and a planetarium.
"It will be a continuation of some of the programs we had before, but with a brand new facility," said Audubon Nature Institute President Ron Forman.
The new Nature Center is expected to open in the fall of 2015.
"We have a lot of issues that other people don't have to deal with, and we need a place to educate the kids about how the environment works, and how they fit into it," said the founder of the original Louisiana Nature Center Bob Thomas.
"I can't wait until it's open again," said Janet, already planning to be there opening day.
And the new center will be reinforced for hurricane winds.