Tag Archives: Louisiana

AmeriCorps NCCC: Cowpies in Cameron Parish

AmeriCorps NCCC

It was hard to imagine a home once stood on the empty concrete slab I stared at. The crumble of bricks, the remnants of tiles were the only reminders that lives once unfolded on this patch of earth surrounded by oak trees and knee-high grass. But I’d become immune to this scene; I’d seen enough destruction in the last few months that I wasn’t fazed anymore. I’d seen homes sagging like wet cardboard, entire houses tossed into swamps, houses where people had drowned in their attics in floods.

Fresh off two months of building homes in Katrina-damaged New Orleans, my eleven AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team mates and I were well-equipped to handle the destruction of Cameron Parish. Hurricane Rita, which came ashore just a month after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, flattened this place as if it were all made out of Legos. Since then, groups of church volunteers and college spring breakers and AmeriCorps teams have come to rebuild.

Read the rest of the story on The Voluntary Traveler website.


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A Louisiana Life: Shelby Stanga

Shelby Stanga might be a television personality, but you won’t find him living in luxury. The swamp logger prefers to sleep in a sleeping bag and hammock next to a boat launch on the Tangipahoa River.

Stanga has recently become a bit of a star thanks to the History Channel’s show Ax Men, which features him and four other logging companies around the country.

Stanga, as the show chronicles, pulls ancient sinker logs out of the Bedico Swamp in Tangipahoa Parish. Between 1850 and 1944, the swamp around Tangipahoa River and its creeks and bayous was milled extensively. The old-growth trees, most of which are cypress, were felled and floated down the creek to Lake Pontchartrain and used in home construction in New Orleans. Some of the logs sunk, and they’ve been sitting in the mud ever since — some for more than 100 years. The trees range in age from 2,000 years old to 5,000 years old.

Read the rest of the story online at Louisiana Life.


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People of the Mounds: Exploring Ancient Cultures

My first impression of the massive ancient earthworks at Poverty Point is not a good one.

I’m driving on Highway 577 east of Epps in Northeast Louisiana and don’t realize I’ve just driven past the site’s six curved ridges until I look at a diagram later. The highway plows right through the rings, but they’ve been so worn down by farming and natural erosion through the millennia that what must once have been an impressive sight now (to the untrained eye, anyway) appears to be little more than an empty field.

But when I get a chance to see the rings and the mounds up close and learn about their construction, I quickly change my mind.

Read the rest of the story online at Louisiana Life.

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A treeless future

Last night I attended an event to mark the bicentennial celebration of St. Tammany Parish. I contributed to a book on the parish’s history, which was unveiled last night. The huge piles of books made me think that maybe the event could have profited from using an outside document storage company!

The book and its photos are beautiful, and I noticed the predominant color is green. The front cover is a photo of the leafy St. Tammany Trace, my favorite spot to cycle in this part of Louisiana. There are incredible aerial shots of rivers and bayous lined with thick vegetation and of wetlands.

Trees are what I love most about visiting St. Tammany. The concrete of New Orleans wears on me, and when I visit my parents across the lake, I’m struck by how saturated the landscape is with green. It’s almost blinding. I’m always spotting turtles, hummingbirds, deer, rabbits, and possums when I drive around. I think the “natural”/country setting of the parish is what draws so many people to it.

On the way to the event, I passed a new shopping mall. A vast, clear-cut eyesore of parking lots and chain restaurants and offensively large box stores. I noticed numerous wooded lots for sale. Inevitably, when those are sold, all the trees will be cut down, because apparently you can’t build a damn house unless you clear-cut the entire property.

It depressed me that as we honored the history of this beautiful area, we ignored the rampant expansion that’s taking place, that’s degrading much more than just the atmosphere of these small towns. It seems like an incredible oversight on the part of the parish. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s hypocritical to honor the past while failing to protect the green spaces that make the parish special.


Filed under Environment and Nature

Up to my elbows

Here are some photos I took while working out in the marshes around Barataria Bay, Louisiana. I had no idea we were actually going to get IN the water, as one of the volunteer coordinators demonstrates below. Read more about this experience on the Matador Change blog here.

An old fishing boat at the dock we left from.

These “terraces” were dredged to make levees on which to plant tufts of marsh grass.

The small clumps of grass will grow quickly into large bunches and replace the marsh that has eroded and died off.

Shrimp boats siting idle–not sure if that’s due to the spill or not.

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Rebuilding the marshes five years after Katrina

The boat sped through the marshes, past a BP staging area of trailers and mobile homes set up on the water’s edge near a busy dock. Fishing boats with outstretched arms of nets sit idle, though I can’t tell if this is due to the spill. In the distance, column of thunderheads gathers, dark as crude.

Up until today, most of my hurricane-related volunteer work in Louisiana has centered on houses. I’ve gutted, restored, and rebuilt, but what good is that if those rebuilt neighborhoods are left exposed to future storms?

Louisiana loses a football field of wetland every 38 minutes, thanks in part to channels cut for oil drilling. These natural barriers have historically helped slow down the wave action churned by big storms that move through in late summer, but they’re disappearing fast.

Read the rest of this story online at Matador Network’s Change blog

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Wildlife Surprises

It’s hard to believe anyone could mistake a chubby, gray, bewhiskered manatee for a mermaid, but it’s thought the so-called sea cows may have been the source of the mermaid myth.

These large mammals are sometimes spotted in Lake Pontchartrain and the freshwater rivers of the Northshore, although they stay close to the rivers’ mouths. They migrate to this area from Florida in the spring and leave before winter. If you spot one of these gentle herbivores, consider yourself lucky.

“There are maybe a dozen animals total in Lake Pontchartrain,” but probably fewer, says Gary Lester, biologist manager with the Wildlife and Fisheries’ Natural Heritage Program. “It’s hard to judge, because we’ll get 25 calls coming in for the same animal.”

Read the rest of the story online at Inside Northside magazine.

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