Escape into the woods

By Suzanne Le Breton
St. Tammany, LA (April 23, 2010)- On West Causeway Approach the cars zoom by, everyone in such a rush to get to work or pick the kids up from school; but just blocks away the alligators float in the murky green water, the butterflies flutter among the irises and the salamanders slither among the leaves. Beneath a canopy of water oaks and towering pines lies on of Mandeville’s biggest secrets- Neighborwoods, a place to escape everyday life while enjoying nature and learning about the workings of the ecosystem.

Located behind Beau Rivage subdivisions, Neighborwoods sits within a 30-acre transition forest that links two ecosystems- pine savannah and bottomland hardwood forest. The city is hoping an event planned for this weekend will let the secret out and increase residential use of the park. The entrance to Neighborwoods is located in the back of Beau Rivage subdivision at the end of Garden Avenue.
Winding its way through the park, is a 1,000 linear feet channel created to slow down storm water runoff and remove pollutants from the nearby subdivisions, on its way to Lake Pontchartrain.
Seeing this area as an educational opportunity, the city worked together with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to create Neighborwoods. A boardwalk winds through the park connecting paths through wetlands gardens. Along the boardwalk are signs explaining how storm water runoff work, the roles plants, animals and the soil itself have in the wetlands and what people can do to help.
In addition to educating the public on a naturalized way of controlling storm water runoff and managing non-point source pollution, the park also serves a venue for passive recreation and nature watching. At the end of the park, the path continues as it encircles the city’s old treatment pond. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and visitors are asked to pack out what they pack in. Pets are allowed but motorized vehicles, except for those used by handicapped persons, are prohibited. Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, the city will host “A Walk in the Park,” a morning of discovery showcasing the park.
Nature experts will demonstrate how to get the most out of future visits to Neighborwoods. Among the presenters will be a representative from Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation to talk about storm water’s effect on the lake, Northshore Bird Club members to help identify local birds, a park ranger to talk about animals native to the park, and the arborist for the City of Mandeville to help identify native trees in the park.
In addition, Brian Massery from St. Tammany Mosquito Abatement will be on hand to show kids and adults mosquito larvae in different stages of development and what should be done to reduce the mosquito population around your houses. Dave Milliken, from Milliken Farms, will be bringing baby wild animals for adults and children to enjoy. There will also information on butterfly gardens.
Related Resources:
St. Tammany News- Escape into the woods
National NeighborWoods Month