The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center opened in March 1980 but has been abandoned since Hurricane Katrina. More than eight years after the storm, and 34 years since its opening day, the center is finally beginning the renovation project that will revitalize it as a place of education about Louisiana’s natural attractions. Located in eastern New Orleans, the parent Audubon Nature Institute’s first phase of renovations is an $8.4 million project. It will bring back many of the popular features that were built in the years after the original opening, such as classrooms, trails, landscaping, an outdoor pavilion and much more. Situated in Joe W. Brown Memorial Park, the center is one of the few nature destinations in eastern New Orleans.
The project faced some challenges last year when the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office recommended that the $7.6 million in FEMA grant money set aside for the project be rescinded, as the renovations didn’t appear to be moving quickly enough in the years after the storm. But talks with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers removed the concerns, and Audubon was able to keep funds and continue designing projects. The organization has initiated nine of 29 such projects.
After Katrina, the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center was left under six feet of water for a month as institute officials focused on the Audubon Zoo, Audubon Park and Audubon Aquarium, all of which generate more revenue and attract more foot traffic. Now, the center sits poised on the edge of renovations, scheduled to open in autumn of 2015.