NatureFest at the Wetland Park & Nature Trail: Celebrating Earth Day with Nature, Family, Food & Fun

Written by Sankofa Community Development Corporation Staff

Sankofa Wetland Park & Nature Trail observed Earth Day 2023 with NatureFest, a family-friendly celebration of nature, wildlife and community in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. More than 300 visitors and families participated in outdoor learning, canoeing, fishing, nature hikes, science experiments, art activities and–of course–a delicious community crawfish boil.

Supported by funding from Restore America’s Estuaries and CITGO, more than 200 children and youth also participated in outdoor, hands-on classrooms for ecology education during the summer of 2023. Upper elementary and high school youth participated in summer field hikes, and learned about water quality, pond life, wildlife habitats, wetland creatures and their habitats. Learning about the importance of wetlands in protecting the fragile Louisiana coast will increase their commitment to restore and protect our wetlands and habitats as they grow into adulthood.

Teachers had fun, too. The Park provided environmental lesson plans and outdoor field study guides, offering teachers opportunities for STEAM, social studies and language arts lessons that align with state content standards.

The 40-acre Wetland Park & Nature Trail was formerly a freshwater marsh; the marsh was destroyed when the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) allowed saltwater to intrude and kill the protective trees and vegetation. The destruction of the wetland ultimately contributed to the complete inundation of the Lower Ninth Ward by flood waters during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.

To date, Sankofa has restored 20 acres of wetland area with the development of bioretention ponds and the plantings of over 500 native irises and 1,200 bald cypress and water tupelo trees. These efforts resulted in the retention of 1.8 million gallons of water, increased wildlife diversity within the park area, and increased access to 

nature play space for local families. The Wetland Park is a valuable green space in a low-income, urban environment; these programs provide youth with a connection to nature – often for the first time – as well as a
chance to view local wildlife.

With support from Restore America’s Estuaries and Citgo, youth not only explore nature and learn key concepts, but also do so in a fun, engaging way that allows for important quality socialization and family bonding time.

This project was funded through the 2023 round of the Caring For Our Coast Gulf Region Grants, a partnership between RAE and Citgo. For more information, click here.