(WVUE) - The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, the beloved attraction destroyed 12 years ago in Hurricane Katrina, will reopen sometime after Labor Day.
The Audubon Nature Institute is completing a $10 million restoration on the 86-acre site, including a 4,000-foot-long network of trails and boardwalks and an 8,500-square-foot Exhibit Pavilion.
The pavilion will feature live animal exhibits and an elaborate recreation of the four seasons of a cypress forest.
Brenda Walkenhorst, Director of Education Projects, said the display is designed to show visitors "what lives under the water, what lives above the water and, actually, the birds that live way up high."
This is not your grandfather's nature center.
"This is going to be interactive," Walkenhorst said. "We've got exhibits where you're going to touch furs, match up bones, see skulls."
Phase II will include a planetarium.
The design will allow for exhibits to be easily moved to convert indoor space for community events, Walkenhorst said.
For several years now, volunteers have struggled against Chinese tallow trees, which invaded the site after Katrina and squeezed out native species.
Walkenhorst said the tallows now represent 90 percent of all trees on the site.
"We're even going to have invasive species rangers, which are children and we're going to put a bounty on every Chinese tallow," Walkenhorst said. "We have to get them out to make this the natural forest."
The Audubon Nature Institute said no firm date has been set for the reopening.
While groups will pay a fee for overnight stays and special programs, general admission for the public will be free.