A viewing platform on the edge of the Lower Ninth Ward can now offer visitors a chance to see the damage done to wetlands by saltwater intrusion. They can also watch through new interactive signs as restoration projects try to repair the damage at Bayou Bienvenue.
The platform sits at the end of Caffin and Florida avenues, just over the railroad tracks. It was built a few years after Hurricane Katrina by college students from Wisconsin and Colorado, but it remained a bit of a local secret.
Arthur Johnson is executive director of the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development.
“It has opened up kind of a user-friendly opportunity for not only residents but also people from all across the country and all across the world," said Johnson. "Also, it gives you exposure to a natural habitat.”
That habitat has changed from thriving wetlands to open water — mostly from damage blamed on the now-closed Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal.
Ninth Ward resident John Taylor remembers the thick cypress and tupelo forest, and now — as a caretaker of the platform — hopes to see it again.
“Watching it die — and you know — now that people are getting together that’s going to restore it, I’m as ticked as a child in a candy factory," Taylor said. "So, I just hope I live long enough to see it restored.”
Garret Graves of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said at the signage unveiling that the project is one of many in the state master plan.
“We’re working on a $10 million project to do restoration in the central wetlands area, and I’ll tell you that we’re committed to make substantially more investments,” Graves said.
The platform is directly accessible from the 84 Galvez bus line, giving people in the city a chance to see coastal protection.