Agritourism business grows in Louisiana

News Release Distributed 02/12/14

LAKE CHARLES, La. – Louisiana birds and wildlife habitat considered commonplace by local residents are considered exotic and fascinating by many out-of-state visitors looking for the different and unusual, according to speakers at an agritourism workshop on Feb. 11.

The event was jointly sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and Mississippi State University to explain how to start a business based on agritourism or ecotourism.

Bobby Jordan of the Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge said the facility hosted a group of 32 birders recently, and many of them were ornithologists from Cornell University, considered a world leader in the study of birds.

Jordan said the guests marveled at the bird life found in the marsh and coastal area.

“To impress these guys as much as we did is eye-opening,” Jordan said.

Jordan said sandhill cranes and crested caracara are becoming more numerous in the area, and a bald eagle is often spotted in the Cameron Parish marsh.

He said he enjoys seeing the reaction of guests when they spot a bird for the first time. “It’s one of the joys I get out of this business,” he said.

Jordan said Grosse Savanne got into the ecotourism business about a year ago, and the response so far has been encouraging. He said some of the company’s acreage no longer suitable for growing rice has been converted to wildlife habitat.

Fishing and birding guide Sammy Faulk, also chairman of the Cameron Parish Tourism Commission, said he has guided birdwatchers numerous times during his outdoor career since 1987, including the late Roger Tory Peterson, a well-known naturalist and wildlife illustrator.

Dave Patton, a birder and coordinator of the Peveto Woods Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Cameron Parish, said the sanctuary’s logbook shows visitors from Australia, Canada, Germany and numerous states.

He said the birding location has become well-known just by word-of-mouth. “If you have a place attractive to birders, word gets out.”

Eddie Romero, who owns citrus and nut orchards near New Iberia, said he hosted a group of French tourists recently, and they were fascinated by his two-acre crawfish pond. “They went nuts over that. They enjoyed it tremendously.”

Twyla Herrington, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant fisheries agent in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, said several business have started up in her area since Louisiana has gained widespread attention from several reality TV shows. “The rest of the country is aware of what is going on in Louisiana. They want to know more.”

Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator, said a special Louisiana limited liability law protects agritourism businesses, but procedures have to be followed closely and insurance is needed. “Just putting a sign up is not going to be enough. You’ve got to follow the process,” she said.

Also at the workshop, organizers of the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Jefferson Davis Parish gave an overview of the event, which was started in 2006. Birders from across the nation have attended the festival to get a glimpse of an elusive, small bird called a yellow rail that can be seen during rice harvest.

Faulk also talked about the Creole Nature Trail that runs through Cameron and Calcasieu parishes, and he said more than 250,000 visitors use the highway route through the marsh each year.

Bruce Schultz

2/13/2014 3:45:14 AM
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