11 January 2013
I am a seventh generation New Orleanian. As the usual story around here goes—in the aftermath of Katrina, the family home my grandfather built was submerged in 12 feet of water and my friends and loved ones were dispersed across the country. I joined AmeriCorps to help in the rebuilding efforts. At the time a movement was taking place. Neighbors were helping neighbors, young passionate idealists were flocking here in droves, and an alphabet soup of non-profits emerged. Very unexpectedly, in this time of devastation I found passion in rolling up my shirtsleeves and serving my community.
This is the path that brought me to coastal restoration work. My boss during AmeriCorps was Marie Gould—my current business partner. Many young people go through an idealist phase, seeing the injustices and believing they can be the change. Most outgrow that phase. Marie never did, although she would definitely deny this.
Marie’s husband is Bob Marshall, the former Outdoors Editor for the Times Picayune who covered coastal erosion for 35 plus years. Despite a journalism prowess that earned two Pulitzer Prizes and an award for distinguished environmental writing from the National Academy of Sciences, his reporting on the issue attracted little notice before Katrina. After the storm people began to realize the importance of coastal restoration and Marie increased her effort to spread the word. I heard about it all of the time… and it sunk in. I recognized the fragility of my hometown, and I knew all of the hard work we were putting in could easily be washed away again.
Lost Lands started during a crisis of a different sort. I graduated with a Masters in Urban Planning and had difficulty finding a position in my field. I started thinking outside the box and, at times, way outside the box.
By the 2011 call for applications for Pitch NOLA, I had thoroughly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit, but was eager to fight for our coast. Lost Lands was a long time dream of Marie and Bob’s. Bob’s reputation had made him a go to person when people of influence such as politicians, reporters, documentarians wanted boat trips into the wetlands to better understand the issues. Marie and Bob loved doing these trips in motor boats and kayaks, and they saw that experiencing wetlands beauty up close left people committed and passionate about restoration.
I convinced them we should enter Pitch NOLA. We did not win – at least not that night. Pitch NOLA gave us the moment we needed to start, and after that we were committed. A few months later we received a fellowship from Propeller, which was a priceless opportunity. Now we have a marketing and business consultant, a pro-bono lawyer and accountant, and the incredible support and encouragement of Propeller’s staff. The energy from this experience reminds me of those early years after Katrina— we are once again in a community that is coming together and rallying to support a better New Orleans. And once again I’m ecstatic to be part of it.
To date our successes include media attention from Garden and Gun Magazine and NOLA Vie, as well as other outlets who are interested in writing about our program. Nature lovers and concerned citizens are signing up for tours and we are having a blast educating them and taking them into Louisiana Wetlands.