Apr 3, 2024 - News

Treehouse-like viewing platform opens on Metairie's lakefront

Photo shows a two-story viewing platform on Lake Pontchartrain that's supported by tree sculptures.

The Bird's Nest Learning Pavilion is at Bucktown Harbor in Metairie. It has stairs and an elevator. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Officials will open the two-story Bird's Nest Learning Pavilion to the public Wednesday morning at the Bucktown Harbor.

Why it matters: The whimsical metal viewing platform is part of a $15M+ overhaul of Jefferson Parish's lakefront from Bucktown Harbor to Bonnabel Park.

The big picture: The multi-year project focuses on increasing recreational access to Lake Pontchartrain while making the levee more resistant to storms, Jefferson Parish councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken tells Axios.

  • "The lake is a resource, but we've largely been walled off from it," she said.
  • One of the goals is to make the lake feel like an extended backyard for residents.

Between the lines: An ulterior motive, she says, is making Jefferson Parish more attractive to young families.

State of play: The Bird's Nest will be open during daylight hours, Van Vrancken says.

  • The Bucktown Boardwalk is nearby, and visitors can walk along the path to see the wetlands up close.
Photo shows the sign explaining the Bucktown Marsh on the new boardwalk.
The boardwalk has signs that explain the marsh and the plants and wildlife that live there. One of the new bridges is seen to the right. It's not open yet. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
  • A living shoreline is under construction too. Two bridges have already been installed along with nine rock jetties that create an additional "speed bump" for storms and waves, Van Vrancken says.

Zoom in: It's the first time a living shoreline has been used to protect a federal levee, NOAA says, and is seen as an experiment for other levees in metro New Orleans.

  • Workers will pump in sediment to fill 22 acres to create marshland between the jetties and the levee.
  • The parish is setting up a live camera feed so people can watch the process, Van Vrancken says.
Photo shows the boardwalk and one of the new rock jetties as sunset on Lake Pontchartrain.
Nine rock jetties, including this one off the boardwalk, were installed in Lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish. The highrises near the Causeway are visible in the background. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

By the numbers: The funding comes from federal, state and local sources, including the National Park Service, NOAA, Louisiana State Parks and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

What's next: The parish plans to open a paddle canal this summer as part of the living shoreline.

Photo shows a rendering of a paddle canal that's a protected waterway for kayakers and canoes.
Bucktown Harbor paddle canal is being built in Metairie. Rendering: Courtesy of Jefferson Parish Council
  • It will be a protected area for non-motorized crafts, like kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, to launch and navigate from Bucktown to the Bonnabel boat launch.
  • Plus, there's a large playground called Shrimp Boat Hill in the works along with a two-story pavilion for hosting community events.
  • The longterm project includes updating the harbor to make it easier for boaters to visit by adding transient slips and a fuel dock.
Photo shows two new bridges being installed at Bucktown Harbor.
These two bridges will allow pedestrians to cross above the paddle canal that's under construction at Bucktown Harbor. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows a sign that says "Danger - alligators and snakes in area"
Wild animals live at Bucktown Harbor. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows the Bird's Nest Learning Pavilion with the marsh in the foreground.
The Bird's Nest Living Pavilion is seen from the boardwalk. There's an area of marsh and vegetation that separates the two. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows the front of the Bird's Next Learning Pavilion with gates.
The Bird's Nest Learning Pavilion has gates that will be locked at night. There's an elevator as well to provide alternative access. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows metal birds and trees that decorate the staircase of the Bird's Nest.
The railings on the stairwell for the Bird's Nest Learning Pavilion are decorated with metal birds and tree branches. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows a road with a sign on the right that says "Bucktown Harbor."
Residents access Bucktown Harbor via this road on the right behind the sign. It's across from R&O's on Metairie-Hammond Highway in Metairie. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

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