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Coastal Restoration in New Orleans
April 8th, 2024  |  by

If you follow our New Orleans field on social media, you might have noticed pictures of our volunteers out in the marsh, planting trees and grasses (and some happily covered in mud). These projects are through new local partners working on coastal restoration in Southern Louisiana. 

Volunteers from Creekside Christian and Stafford County Christian posing in their muck boots on the levee.
How we got involved

In addition to our continuing work in housing, homeless outreach, and community gardens, our team in New Orleans continually looks for where volunteers are needed for new initiatives in the community. In 2019 the Central Wetlands Reforestation Collective (CWRC) was founded, and their work is focused in our own backyard.

  “The Central Wetlands are in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes and are bordered by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (AKA MR-GO) and Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) on the eastern side and the 40 Arpent Levee and Canal on the west side,” explained CWRC’s website. This area is within walking distance from Camp Hope, the volunteer base for our field in New Orleans. 

Walking into the Central Wetlands in Violet, LA

As you cross over the levee next to the newly-created bike path in Arabi, you suddenly leave the neighborhood behind and are walking along the wetlands. A few years ago, all you could see was the water, small islands in the distance with nothing growing on them, and perhaps a flock of birds. Today the same spot looks very different. The land is growing as the newly planted marsh grass flourishes, many more birds can be seen drying their wings in the sun, and you can see the trees that were planted just a few weeks ago peaking over the tall grass.  

Over the past year, our team has volunteered themselves, and taken volunteer groups to join in planting events around Southeastern Louisiana. These events are hard work, often involving a boat ride and getting very muddy, but very fun at the same time. The impact of these projects will also be long-lasting and benefit communities throughout Louisiana. 

Volunteers from Woodlawn Christian on a boat leaded with marsh grasses
How does Coastal Restoration impact the community?

Wetlands are an invaluable resource to Louisiana. Many families earn their livelihoods from fishing and trapping in these marshes, and whole communities are based around these industries. Wetlands also provide crucial defense against hurricanes and flooding. 

If you have watched the news leading up to a hurricane, you know that these storms have to travel through the gulf before making landfall in Louisiana. Once the storm hits land, it weakens exponentially. What you might not realize is that the land in Louisiana used to extend much further south than your map currently shows. “We have lost 2,000 miles of land since 1930. That is about the size of Delaware,” explains Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) in their Coastal 101 class. That significant land loss means less defense from future storms, and an ever-changing lifestyle for communities living along the coast.

Map of coastal land loss provided by CRCL

“In 1972 I built a camp with my best friend in the upper Barataria Basin near Lake Salvador, just south of the current Davis Pond diversion,” shared Al Duvernay, a local paleontologist and CRCL volunteer. “Over the years, I observed the relentless mutation at our camp on Bayou des Allemands from a near pristine freshwater environment to one of more saltwater influence and less marshland. Where we used to exclusively catch freshwater species, we started catching more saltwater species. The ecologic and environmental transfiguration was stark. Even the bugs changed. For the worse.”

ROC students talking with local boat drivers at Grand Bayou Indian Village

For communities that make their livelihood from the marshes, the need for restoration is immediate. One such community is the Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha tribe living in the Grand Bayou Indian Village. “It is one of the few tribal communities accessible only by boat and whose residents remain committed to living as their forebears did — fishing, shrimping, oystering, crabbing, and trapping,” explains Common Ground Relief, another coastal restoration partner. “However, in the past several decades, Grand Bayou has lost a significant amount of land due to a combination of manmade interventions, low elevation, land subsidence, and climate change. These disasters have stripped the community of essential defenses against storm surge and flooding, as well as vital economic, cultural, and social resources.”

This village does not receive any federal funding, instead relying on themselves and volunteers to help restore their wetlands. A group from Reach Out on Campus (ROC) got to volunteer with Common Ground Relief and Grand Bayou Indian Village for a marsh grass planting day last summer. ROC leader Dodger Vaughan reflected on their service, “For me it was more about serving alongside the people of the village. I think anytime you can connect with the people you’re serving or even serving alongside it’s worth it.”

Franklin Christian at a CRCL event to bag recycled oyster shells for reef building
How you can get involved

Coastal Restoration is just one of the many community-centered projects we are working on in New Orleans. If you are interested in participating in a restoration project during your trip, contact our field staff to discuss possible projects ( 


You can also support all the work our New Orleans field does by donating to the field or our staff.

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