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When Louisiana Nature Center opened in 1980, New Orleans residents like me enjoyed its remote location in the eastern part of the city — a respite from urban living and a chance to view nature in its pristine state. Even though a shopping mall and subdivisions existed nearby, the property consisted of boardwalks through preserved wetlands; a facility with educational displays and live animals; and lots of opportunities to see wildlife roaming free.
Over the years, additions were made as I brought my children out to enjoy the nature center. Native American powwows took place, and displays were built to showcase the early residents of Louisiana. Classrooms opened to welcome area students, and a planetarium increased attendance.
In 1993, the 86-acre attraction merged with Audubon Nature Institute — the parent organization of the city’s Audubon Zoo; Audubon Aquarium of the Americas; and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium — and was renamed Audubon Louisiana Nature Center.
But in 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated eastern New Orleans, including the nature center. After a $10 million restoration, the center reopened this year on Oct. 6, offering many of the original facilities, including the planetarium and exhibit hall. New to the site is about 1 mile of new boardwalks and primitive trails, with the restoration of the wetlands greenhouse and additional native tree plantings in the works.
Audubon Louisiana Nature Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located inside Joe W. Brown Park, conveniently off Interstate 10 and approximately 30 minutes from downtown.