by Jean Bartholomew
We made it to New Orleans! And then out of New Orleans a little earlier than expected, but more on that later. This city’s charm immediately captivated me – I can firmly say that I Heart this City! This being my first time to NOLA, I was so excited to work and discover the town. Upon arrival, we immediately took a stroll around City Park, marveling at the beautiful trees, sculpture garden, and the people boating by. It was great to just walk around the park for a minute and get to know some new leader team members. We have four members joining with us for our projects here. It was especially exciting to see SCA field leader and New Orleans resident, Lauren Sinnott. Lauren has a wealth of knowledge about the area and is an incredible resource.
For our first two days of work we teamed up with Jorge Menendez, of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Jean Lafitte is a unique park in that it is spread out in different locations across the Mississippi Delta region, with diverse sites recognizing jazz history, swamplands, and the War of 1812. At Louis Armstrong Park, the crew started out painting shutters for a historic building in the park. Jorge even gave us a quick tour of the French Quarter! At Barataria Preserve, I had my first trip to a swamp. As we cleared the trail corridor, our group saw turtles, frogs, snakes, ALLIGATORS, and even a racoon!
Wednesday and Thursday the group set off to prep for what was supposed to be the weekend’s big project at Chalmette National Cemetery. Arriving at the site, we were greeted by beautiful, long branched, century-old oak trees; 16,000 headstones; and the sounds of trains and boats passing by from the ports along the Mississippi River which formed the cemetery’s southern edge. In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, we were tasked with relieving the 16,000 headstones of a thick coating of muck and grim, much of it left over from flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. As we sprayed, scrubbed, and rinsed the headstones, the stark contrast between those we’d cleaned and those we hadn’t was immediately apparent. Cleaning with the winds blowing, yellow dandelions in the background, and even pirates walking by, we were able to scrub 173 headstones. It got me super excited to see what the volunteers would be able to accomplish on Saturday! Unfortunately, due to a weather forecast that included heavy rains and the very real possibility of flash flooding, the volunteer service project that was supposed to happen on April 5th had to be rescheduled to April 19th. Oh well! Guess I’ll be back in New Orleans sooner than I thought!