Natural landscapes, formed by eons of plant succession, are changing or disappearing as a result of rapid urban development and industrial growth. In addition, the human population explosion pressures are being applied to alter the urban/wildland interface in the United States and throughout the world. Many of Louisiana wetlands are subjected to these pressures and have caused change and loss in forested wetland areas. Most of the Mississippi River Delta consists of wetlands in a state of transition to either open water or degraded hardwood forest due to the effects of several key factors. Being a native of south Louisiana, I have witnessed the changes occurring across south Louisiana and the efforts to restore and preserve valuable wetland areas. As landscape architects we must work with biologists and ecologists to restore, protect, and preserve the delicate balance of wetlands present in today’s changing landscapes.
The causes of wetland loss are both natural and anthropogenic. Many wetlands in south Louisiana are being lost due to coastal erosion, particularly in the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary, due to saltwater intrusion, and in the Atchafalaya Basin due to sediment impoundment. Both areas were dramatically altered around the beginning of the 20th century. Because of the value of the unique landscapes of the Atchafalaya Basin, efforts are being made to keep it “Wet and Wild,” to preserve it for generations to come. Part of the efforts to preserve this natural landscape should incorporate ways to inform the public of its value, its biodiversity, its delicate ecosystem, and hydrological requirements. As restoration projects are developed, it is important to educate the stakeholders to the likelihood of sustainability. How can we facilitate the presence of new and informed constituents for the next 10 years, 30 years, and 50 years?
This thesis focuses on developing recreational landscapes within recreational areas of the Atchafalaya Basin that will serve as outdoor classrooms, or learning landscapes, to the visitor and, particularly, the young naturalist. The young naturalists, through education, will recognize the value of this unique landscape and continue support efforts to preserve it.