Meraux Foundation Teams up with At-risk Youth to Restore Local Wetlands

Los Angeles kids get a hands-on look at the “other” LA 

Recent floods at the 40 Arpent Wetland Observatory had inundated the entire grounds with two feet of water, leaving invasive water-hyacinth littered across the area. Parish Government was able to clean up a substantial part of the damage, and the Meraux Foundation stepped up to bring in volunteers to assist with the job and even give a helping hand to nature by planting pollinators and other helpful native flora.

In cooperation with Pathways Travels, a non-profit travel company that partners with schools nationwide to reengage at-risk youth through experiential learning, the Meraux Foundation arranged to bring in 40 high school students from the Los Angeles area to see first-hand a very different sort of landscape and improve it.

“They were fabulous,” said Meraux Foundation Coastal Program Manager Blaise Pezold. “Not only did they provide much needed helping hands, they enjoyed making a real difference here through their hard work. We tried to make it fun and educational as well.”

The volunteers cleaned up the area and planted wetland pollinators around the water’s edge. These types of plants bring in butterflies and bees that are essential to ensuring a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

According to Pezold, “We’re trying to create a more complete ecosystem out here and beautify a part of the parish that many people utilize and cherish.”

Many of the plants for the wetland restoration were grown at Docville Farm, the Meraux Foundation’s home base, which has a working greenhouse. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture gave the Foundation stem cuttings of a number of plants that were then grown to saplings at the farm. These were supplemented with Bull Tongue and Swamp Lillies that were harvested from wetlands owned and managed by the Meraux Foundation. In addition, Irises were donated for the project by the New Orleans Iris Society. 

The land for the 40 Arpent Wetland Observatory was originally given to the
parish through a charitable lease by the Meraux Foundation. It includes a boathouse with a lagoon that provides access to the 40 Arpent Canal for canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, fishing, and just enjoying the natural setting. There’s also a pedestrian bridge from which visitors can observe the central wetlands and watch the native bird life.

“40 Arpent Facilities Manager, Glen Chiappetta, was integral in the execution of this project,” Pezold said. “I really enjoyed working with him and the volunteer students. We try to organize a couple of coastal volunteer projects every month. Not only do we get a lot done, you can tell it really makes an impression on the volunteers, offers a true sense of community, and shows that all of us can make a difference.”