Entrances to Audubon Louisiana Nature Center and Nature Trails (audubonistitute.org) Photos by Shanelle Joseph

Among the many celebrated traditions of pre-Katrina New Orleanians, summer day-campers and weekend warriors enjoyed field trips to the Louisiana Nature and Science Center. A school bus ride through the arched entrance of Joe Brown Park marked the beginning of experiential discovery right in the city’s own backyard.

Visitors walked inquisitively through a winding trail among canopies of towering trees. At the end of the first trail, a rustic octagonal building, which gave the appearance of an oversized cabin, welcomed visitors with an introduction to its wildlife and arbors. Through games, nature trails, and hands-on lectures, urbanites within the city of New Orleans enjoyed a serene retreat of learning and discovery.

Such an experience was the vision of the Junior League of New Orleans’s Community Research Committee in its proposal of a Nature Center in 1972.

After three years of meetings among Junior League of New Orleans and city officials, in March of 1975, the Audubon Park Commission approved JLNO’s proposal for a Nature Center. In a document titled “An Introduction To: Louisiana Nature Center, Inc.” dated September 23, 1977, the proposed “Nature Center” was described as, “A place to explore the enchanting world of nature. A place to observe the diversities of life too small for us to notice and too big for us to comprehend. A place to enjoy, to appreciate, to experience, to learn.”

When the center opened on March 23, 1980, the Louisiana Nature and Science Center had become all that its founders envisioned. Even after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city, disrupting the center’s natural habitat of flora and fauna, JLNO’s vision of “a nature center belonging to the entire community” persevered. Prompted by concerned citizens, non-profit organizations such as Common Ground Relief shared JLNO’s continued interest in this community endeavor, and the nature center re-opened on October 6, 2017 as Audubon Louisiana Nature Center.

Located on the opposite end of its original location in Joe Brown Park, the newly designed nature center continues to welcome guests of every age group. During the center’s regular hours, attendees can explore nature through wood-planked trails or enter the center’s building for a guided or independent learning experience. It is evident through the efforts of the Audubon Nature Institute and Junior League of New Orleans that the Louisiana Nature Center will remain a part of Louisiana’s rich heritage.

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