LSU AgCenter receives Walton ecotourism grant

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Hatch, Dora Ann  |  1/4/2011 1:11:33 AM

News Release Distributed 12/15/10

The LSU AgCenter recently received a $115,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to facilitate efforts to make the northeast Louisiana parishes bordering the Mississippi River a premiere nature tourism destination based on unexploited natural resources.

The funds will be used to form an advisory committee of local stakeholders, friends of wildlife refuges, local businesses and community organizations for developing nature-based tourism, said Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator who will serve as project leader.

These stakeholders will evaluate the region’s cultural, natural and heritage resources, Hatch said. The information will be used to create brochures and a website to distribute the information.

The grant will create opportunities for employment based on nature tourism, agritourism, cultural heritage tourism and wildlife-related activities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, outdoor photography, canoeing, kayaking and hiking, she said. She envisions expanded needs for tour guides, hotels, restaurants and outfitters in the area.

As project leader, Hatch said she will seek ways to demonstrate the value of such assets as the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge and the Poverty Point Historic Site. A birding/heritage event at the refuge during the spring migration period will coincide with the opening of a new road connecting the refuge to a state highway.

LSU AgCenter personnel will participate in accomplishing the goals of the grant and will work with other state and federal agencies with responsibilities in ecotourism, Hatch said. For instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has facilities at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge and Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of a larger refuge complex including St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

“Hopefully, local parish governing bodies and communities will embrace the idea of ecotourism as a means to stimulate the local economies,” Hatch said.

The LSU AgCenter and the Mississippi State University Alternative Enterprise Program will host business development workshops for potential entrepreneurs in nature-based tourism, she said. Those workshops will provide information for business entrepreneurs or landowners who want to explore economic opportunities.

Separate one-day workshops will be held to increase interest and knowledge about eco-tourism and how canoeing, kayaking and wildlife viewing can become part of the tourism infrastructure, she added.

Mary Ann Van Osdell

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