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LICI Participates in Tour of Sankofa Park by President of National Urban Leaque

March 12, 2023 New Orleans, La.


Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail's founder and chief executive officer Rashida Ferdinand's invited Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative's Gary Salathe to lead a tour of the blooming irises at an event held at the park for former New Orleans mayor and current president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. The event took place on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sankofa Wetlands Park in the lower ninth-ward neighborhood of New Orleans.

Photo: Attendees of the event begin to arrive. The leaders of numerous neighborhood non-profits and churches were invited to the special event.


Mr. Morial was the guest of honor at the event, which was to mark a milestone in the park's history and to thank everyone involved in the groups that have volunteered at Phase I and II of the beautiful wetlands park to bring it to its current state of completion. The park received funding last year to complete the final stage of construction. Construction is underway and almost finished for the entire length of the lagoon system.


Representatives of every community group in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood were invited, as well as all of the partner groups that are helping to make the park a reality. LICI's representative was just one of many other leaders from non-profits and organizations that supply volunteers to the park or take on projects there.

Photo: LICI's involvement at Sankofa Wetlands Park goes back to the first Louisiana iris planting there in December 2020. Volunteers from multiple groups are shown

planting irises at that event.


LICI has an important Louisiana iris restoration project at Sankofa. They are using the park as a location to have their rescued native I. giganticaerulea species irises multiply so they can be thinned out in the future to be used in marsh restoration projects. "Of course, a huge added benefit is that the irises are available for the public to see while they are blooming," LICI's Gary Salathe says. He added, "We're all about raising the awareness of this special native Louisiana plant with the public and people in positions of authority." That certainly happened this morning as Salathe took not only Marc Morial, but also a group of local dignitaries and non-profit leaders on a tour of the blooming irises at the park.

Photo: The event at Sankofa Wetlands Park coincided with the peak iris bloom. The blooming Louisiana irises put on a show for everyone that attended the event. The blooming irises shown in the photo are part of the original 2020 iris planting.


Photo: An alligator laying on a log near the irises put on quite the show for the

gathering at park on March 11th.


After the group saw a demonstration of plant and animal life in the waters of the park giving by the staff, Salathe was asked to give a tour of the blooming irises to the group. The tour was supposed to be brief and only for a short walk. Instead, Mr. Morial wanted to walk the entire length of the shoreline that held the blooming irises. He quizzed Salathe during the walk about the Louisiana iris and its place in the habitats of the marshes and swamps of Louisiana.

Photo: LICI's Gary Salathe, on left, is seen at the start of the tour of the blooming Louisiana irises at Sankofa Park at the event. Marc Morial is seen in the center of the photo wearing the gray T-shirt. Sankofa CEO, Rashida Ferdinand, is to the right of him.


At the end of a tour of the blooming irises, Mr. Morial thanked LICI and its volunteers for the work we have done at the park to create a repository of native Louisiana irises to be used in future restoration projects. Salathe said afterward that "This morning was a very meaningful event for all of the groups involved at Sankofa. It's hard to think of anything better than to have LICI's volunteers, and the other goups' volunteers, publicly recognized and thanked for all of the hard work they have done at the park. That happened this morning. We really appreciate it."


Information on Sankofa Wetlands Park and Nature Trail can be found here: https://sankofanola.org/wetland-park-and-nature-trail/


Information on the National Urban League can be found here: https://nul.org/mission-and-history

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