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St. Bernard Ecotourism: Jean Lafitte Park

St. Bernard is a beautiful parish nestled in southeast New Orleans.  In 2007 and 2008, the parish was the fastest growing county, or parish (as we call them in Louisiana), in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but quickly fell due to evacuation and damages caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Today, the parish is bouncing back, especially with its prime location, attractive surroundings and family-friendly lifestyle. St. Bernard Parish is located five miles from New Orleans, yet offers an environment that is lucrative in scenic byways and wildlife.

Ecotourism in St. Bernard: Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
Like other parishes in Louisiana, ecotourism is a fast growing area of interest for both locals and visitors alike. Those that travel to the area, taking part in the local activities and spending the night at one of the local lodges, benefit the community directly. Furthermore, traveling to the parish brings traffic to the area and creates awareness toward wildlife, rare species of birds, fish and nutria. One of the greatest sources of ecotourism for the parish has been the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

Jean Lafitte is one of five national parks located in the state of Louisiana. These parks bring in over 568,000 people a year, which results in an economic increase of $25,000,000 from national park tourism alone. With this money, not only are the local communities supported, but also the parks are able to fulfill further goals, by earning tax incentives that go toward rehabilitation projects. For St. Bernard, a parish that has had a lot to come back from after the hurricanes, this type of ecotourism is essential to the development of the area.

The Six Sites of Jean Lafitte
There are six sites at the Jean Lafitte National Park, and these include the: Acadian Cultural Center, Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, Barataria  Preserve, French Quarter Visitor Center and the Chalmette Battlefield. The six sites are open daily, but locations and hours vary by site. With its expanse, you can plan several trips to Jean Lafitte Park, discovering something new each time.

Best of all, the park includes historical sites and information, combining the likes and interests of nature enthusiasts and history buffs. What makes the six sites of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve so exciting is that the Mississippi drew in people of all origins, which means there are many stories to tell, based on religion, language and ethnicity.

The Chalmette Battlefield
Chalmette is the largest city in the parish and also serves as the parish seat, but it's perhaps best known for this famous historic site.  The Chalmette Battlefield is one of the most interesting sites at the park, since it preserves the exact location of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

The site is eerily calm, even though people know what happened here long ago. To make the events come to life, there are reenactments for special programs, documenting the significance of the Battle of New Orleans. There is also a Battle of New Orleans ranger talk, held each day, for those interested in learning more about the war. No matter which of the sites you choose to visit while at Jean Lafitte, the beauty, splendor and cultural influence will change the way you see St. Bernard Parish.

Image: Ken Lund

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