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2006 Project Proposal Becoming Reality

It started as a vision in 2006. Louisiana State University landscape architecture students, supported by Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG), worked with the East Jefferson Parish Levee Board to create plans to restore wetlands and establish a passive recreational zone in the Bucktown area of New Orleans. Finally, in 2020, those plans are becoming reality.

Bucktown Project

Currently under construction, a $1.7 million, 1,000-foot boardwalk adjacent to the Bucktown Harbor, will enclose 3.5 acres of marshland. Funded by Jefferson Parish and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the project includes benches, bird-watching stations and educational signage so the site can serve as an outdoor classroom.

Work on a $10 million effort to regenerate wetlands just west of the boardwalk is expected to begin by the end of the year. Plans include breakwaters, aquatic plant and wildlife areas behind the breakwaters, as well as lanes to accommodate kayakers and small recreational watercraft. Funding for the project comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and bond proceeds from the parish’s share of offshore oil royalties.

Both construction projects will result in new amenities for Bucktown and adjacent neighborhoods that will help reconnect residents to the natural environment, while helping protect the area from storm surge. Those were goals of Bruce Sharky’s students in 2006 when they developed conceptual waterfront development plans for the Bucktown marina area (Jefferson Parish Lakefront Restoration).

“It’s a testament to the creativity of those students – creating something that has been implemented,” said Sharky, professor of landscape architecture in the LSU College of Art and Design.

“Originally, we were going to take the students to South Texas to work on a project,” said Sharky. “Then Katrina and Rita hit two weeks into the fall semester, and I knew we had a number of students who were from New Orleans. So, we changed plans in order to demonstrate what landscape architecture could contribute to the recovery effort.

“What we were doing at the time – mimicking nature – was a strategy that landscape architecture has long promoted. Now it has become standard practice,” added Sharky. “It’s about green infrastructure. We see what nature does and how it repairs itself and we replicate the process. That’s what the students

Former LSG Extension agent for Jefferson Parish, Mark Schexnayder, connected Sharky and LSG for the project. Sharky also applauded Mike Liffmann, retired LSG Extension director, for his support.

“The Bucktown project is similar to what Sea Grant did in Delcambre,” said Rusty Gaudé, current LSG and LSU AgCenter Marine Extension agent for Jefferson Parish. “Sea Grant lights the fuse. But it takes five, ten or even more years for the fireworks.

“The adage is true that we’re agents of change. It just takes time to see the change,” Gaudé concluded.