I went to Bayou Bienvenue for the first time when I was just a ten-year-old kid in New Orleans disobeying my parents' instructions to stay away. What I found was a special place; the bayou was full of plants and animals to learn about and quiet spots to think in.
I've spent the last 50 years visiting the bayou near my home in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and every year it disappeared a little more -- today what was once a forest is now just open water.
After Hurricane Betsy and the opening of the Mississippi Gulf Outlet in 1965, my special place began to change. I hated seeing the cypress trees turn sickly and grey, but it wasn't until Hurricane Katrina hit that we fully realized what we'd lost. Without the protection of the bayou's forest, the storm surges struck the levees with their full force leading to nearly unimaginable destruction.
Since Katrina, we have worked hard to rebuild New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward; now it's time to rebuild our bayou.
In the last half decade, I've seen the cypress trees die and the bayou change. Decimated by Katrina's floodwaters, my neighborhood has also changed. I still live in the Lower Ninth Ward and I spend my days at Bayou Bienvenue maintaining the trail and the viewing platform. I know now that protecting one means protecting the other.
I don't know if I'll be around when the area is totally restored 30 years from now, but while I am here, I will fight with all my strength to make sure we get moving to restore and renew Bayou Bienvenue. And, I will ask others like you to fight with me.