Couturie Forest and Arboretum
The trails are open during daylight hours.
We have big and exciting plans for the forest. To learn all the details, download the Couturie Forest Master Plan document. The document provides a full menu of ideas and plans for the forest. We will do the work in phases over several years as funds are secured. Many, but probably not all, of the ideas presented in the plan will come to fruition.
If you want the short story, here it is:
- The forest was heavily damaged by Katrina. It destroyed most of the forest's large trees and shade canopy. As a result, invasive species like Chinese Tallow have thrived.
- In 2008, the park hired a local landscape architecture firm to develop a comprehensive plan for the forest. They were assisted with the input of approximately 20 forest stakeholders.
- Ultimately our plans are to nearly double the size of the forest; from 33 to 60 acres. The expanded footprint will incorporate all of Scout Island. The soccer fields on Scout Island will be closed, but not before new ones are constructed elsewhere in the park.
- Volunteers have and will continue to play a large role in the recovery and development of the forest.
- Things are going to get worse before they get better. To bring the forest back, we first need to greatly reduce the invasive species. That work has begun and most Chinese Tallow trees north of Harrison have been eradicated.
- In earlt 2010 we planted 2,050 trees in the forest. As the trees grow, they will help "knock down" or eliminate invasive species.
- The forest will highlight eight different ecosystems:
- Coastal Prairie
- Coastal Marsh
- Eastern Pine Savannah
- Bottomland Hardwood
- Upland Hardwood
- Live Oak + Palmetto Forest
- Cypress + Tupelo Swamp
- Riparian Edge
The forest continues to be a haven for birds. It's not uncommon for Birders to spot 60 or more species during an outing.
In 2011, new trails will be built to help summit "The Mountain" within the forest. A new deck will also be constructed. The mountain top is the highest point in New Orleans (45 feet above sea level). The park recommends oxygen tanks or Sherpa guides if you are unaccustomed to high altitudes.
Whether you are a birder, a fisherman, out to exercise, walk your dog, a lover of nature, or just out for a stroll, Couturie Forest is the place for you. Come out and enjoy your backyard today!
The Couturie Forest and Arboretum Trail fronting on Harrison Avenue within City Park is a 33-acre preserve of one of the largest stands of mature mixed hardwoods. The forest is a natural refuge where many urbanites go to commune with nature, fish, birdwatch or catch their breath in an area otherwise not known to many. Couturie Forest was begun as a community arboretum in the 1939 with a bequest of $50,000 for 6,000 trees from businessperson Rene Couturie. An arboretum is a place where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown for scientific and educational purposes. Along the trail of Couturie Forest, visitors will find forty-five species of trees identified by both their common and scientific names.
Years after the initial planting of the oaks in the 1930s, that today form the foundation of the Couturie Forest, the area had evolved into an ugly, illegal dump. The woodland suffered through 60 years of neglect until a $5,000 grant from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry was used to plan improvements to the urban forest.
In 2001, City Park staff, volunteers and members of the Louisiana National Guard cleared out trash and constructed over a mile of trails as well as a deck, an amphitheater and six education stations. The trail takes visitors on a path curling alongside the lagoon banks, past a small amphitheatre with wooden benches, to an observation deck overlooking the water. The trail also provides visitors with a variety of species of trees identified by both their common and scientific names. Going deeper into the forest, visitor will find the highest hill in the metropolitan area, called the LaBorde Lookout. This hill was created from the construction rip rap of Interstate 610. The tallest "mountain" in the sub-sea level city, has an observation platform at its peak. The Arboretum Trail comes complete with interpretive signage, maps, and marked trails.
The forest also provides a habitat for more than 100 species of songbirds, ducks, waders, hoot owls, white and brown pelicans and feral chickens that is not available anywhere else in the city. As you explore the Arboretum, you will see a number of other features designed to enhance bird life along the trail. In the lagoon, nesting boxes for wood ducks can be found. Elsewhere, cavities in trees provide nesting space for owls and other birds. Food and cover species of plant life can be noted, such as elderberry, common privet and seed-producing grasses. This trail can produce all of the above mentioned and more during migration seasons. Additional winter visitors include Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and Orange-crowned, Pine, and Yellow-rumped warblers.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed a majority of the forest. We believe that one or more tornadoes blew through the forest as it sustained major damage. Subsequent cleanup by the Corps of Engineers removed downed trees but also left a once densely forested area barren and full of emerging invasive species such as Chinese Tallow.
Several hundred saplings were planted between December 2005 and March 2006 in the forest. Unfortunately, New Orleans was in the midst of a severe drought and the majority of the trees succumbed to the drought.
Perseverance paid, however, and we planted over 2,000 trees in the forest since Hurricane Katrina. All the trees and tree work in the forest and arboretum has been accomplished via volunteers. Over 3,000 folks have volunteered in the park since Hurricane Katrina and we know we will be able to attract the needed volunteers to plant more trees in the forest.