Visitors Center doors open officially Friday; new sculptures on view

Deidre Cruse, Government Reporter
OPENING FRIDAY...Parish officials will formally open the doors to the $1.3 million North Iberville Visitors Center at noon tomorrow (Friday). This is a nighttime shot of the center, located on the banks of Bayou Grosse Tete at I-10. The photo is of the back of the facility from across the bayou near Big Head’s BBQ Restaurant and Brockhoeft Chevrolet.

Iberville Parish will open its new North Iberville Visitors Center at the Grosse Tete exit of I-10 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, March 19 at noon. The public is invited.

The event will also include the unveiling of four huge oak wood sculptures to be placed both inside and outside the building. Chainsaw artist Lynn Varnado created the sculptures with wood from a historic oak on the visitors’ center site that was destroyed by Hurricane Gustav.

The sculptures include a pelican, an 800 pound crawfish standing on its tail, an outline of Iberville Parish with the significant sites of the parish located inside the outline; and a cross section of the base of the tree showing the age of the tree and significant events of the parish that correspond to various tree ages.

The 3,500 square feet visitors center sits in the midst of historic oak trees along picturesque Bayou Grosse Tete. The Acadian cottage design features pine floors, walls of cypress and front and back porches with views to beautifully landscaped grounds. Extensive measures were taken to protect the beautifully draping oaks on the property.

“This center is the gateway for us to welcome visitors to Iberville Parish,” said Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso, Jr.  “The development of this center was a big aspect of the parish’s award-winning master plan that was developed in 2007. We think it will be a real asset in developing Iberville’s tourism program.”

A trained staff knowledgeable about Iberville tourist sites and activities will greet travelers stopping at the site.

The center also will offer maps, driving directions, brochures, travel directories, wireless Internet access, current weather and traffic information, clean restrooms, and complimentary coffee and water.

The Visitors Center represents the latest of an on-going effort to ramp up its tourism program. In 2008, the parish completed a tourism master plan that charts the course for promoting the unique sites and attractions in the parish. Since then, the parish has developed a structured and coordinated tourism program that includes a new website and a marketing program.