If there’s one thing we could use more of these days, it’s people saying “Thank You”.
That is the case this Saturday in Monroe when the Friends of Black Bayou open up the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge from 10 am. – 3 p.m. for the annual Fall Celebration to say “thanks” to the refuge’s supporters and the community as a whole. It’s free and everybody’s welcome. There will be a few special events, including the release of a baby alligator snapping turtle at 11 a.m., free canoeing, guided nature walks and all kinds of exhibits and animals. There will also be a drawing for a Liquid Logic kayak, sale of native Louisiana flowers and loads of activities for kids. Kids events include face painting, birdhouse building with Home Depot and native dance exhibitions by the Boy Scouts Order of the Arrow.
And among my favorites, they’ll be jambalaya, fried fish and the famous Black Bayou Lake Mud Pie.
You could also bring the boat and tour the lake. The lake is open to fishing with a $2 launch fee. Please note that outboard motors can be no larger than 50 horsepower. And right now, the fishing is a bit slow since the lake is up about a foot due to recent rains.
The Masur Museum of Art, the ULM Museum of Natural History, Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Monroe City Schools and the George Mouk Memorial Blood Drive will also be there. The refuge is located about a mile and a half north of CenturyTel on US 165 north.
It’s hard to believe it has been 15 years since the refuge was established back in 1997. I still remember walking through the woods with Kelby Ouchley of the USFWS and my good friend Gary Farley to see the old dilapidated plantation home that Kelby and the Friends thought would make a great visitor’s center. Gary and I were asked to look at it to get a donation from the company we worked for to move the building to its current site so it could be renovated. Gary and I both laughed and told Kelby that he could build a brand new building for what it would take to restore that old home with holes in the roof and floor and fallen-in porch. Kelby said it just wouldn’t be the same. As usual, he was right.
They got the money, moved the old house out of the woods to its current location and got plenty of other donations to restore it beautifully. When the Friends group was formed, it rallied support from business,
civic and individual sectors in a way that I’ve never seen before. One of the leaders of that effort was George Mouk. He worked tirelessly to secure funding for Black Bayou projects. What they’ve done with the old house to turn it into a functioning Visitor’s Center is not just short of remarkable, it’s way past it. The development of the remainder of the refuge is just as remarkable — and enjoyable. It shows what people can do when they work together for a good cause. It’s a good day for you to come on out and enjoy the day. And it would be nice to say “thank you” back to the folks that discovered, mined and continue to polish this gem of the outdoors in northeast Louisiana.
For more information on the area, go to http://www.fws.gov/northlouisiana/blackbayoulake/
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