Need for Sanctuary

A Sanctuary is needed for the 200,000 Purple Martins that make the New Orleans area their spring and summer home. It is needed for the six million Purple Martins that pass through this area twice a year on their great migratory adventure. 

It is needed for the thirty million other swallows that feed and migrate through the area. It is needed for all the other North American migratory birds that pass through this area twice each year. 

This natural, migratory phenomenon does not occur anywhere else in the world. New Orleans is at the terminal end of the great Mississippi Valley Flyway. It is a bird's last chance to refuel on its flight down to South America, and its first chance to replenish its diminished reserve on the way back. 

The Sanctuary will include a rehabilitation center for wild birds which will heal injured, sick or orphaned birds. A pilot program for the rehabilitation center was established in Houma, LA. in 1995 where over the last several years the program has had a success rate approaching 100 percent.

A major element of the Sanctuary that is not obvious by looking at the master plan drawings is the emphasis placed upon interpretive facilities that will tell the meaning of the Sanctuary, the Purple Martin and related topics in an educational and entertaining way. The interpretive facilities will occur in the visitor center and continue along the walkways of the Sanctuary.
An economic analysis by Jefferson Economic Development Commission estimated that the Sanctuary will attract 500,000 visitors each year. This will have a $100 million beneficial impact for the economy. It will create 1,500 new jobs and increase local tax revenues by $8.4 million per year, with a like amount going to the state.

Sanctuary Plan

The project will create new wetlands to protect a unique national resource, the largest known Purple Martin roost in the world. The wetlands will be formed by the construction of a series of barrier islands which will protect newly created marsh, mud flats, and shell and sand beaches. The project will create fresh and brackish water environments. It will create shore, marsh and land habitats for all native and migratory birds.

Project Swallow will be surrounded by Purple Martin houses which will be used for the swallow to raise their young. Barn swallows will nest within the Sanctuary. It will be on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, the largest, fresh-water estuary in the world and it will be at the base of the Causeway Bridge, the longest bridge in the world.

The project site is located just west of the Causeway bridge toll plaza along the Metairie lake shore. The site occupies approximately 36 acres of existing lake bottom extending about 1,800 feet along the shore and about 800 feet into the lake north of the shoreline. The project site is within our newly created Lake Pontchartrain State Bird Sanctuary. 

The major visitor access facilities including the visitor center, parking area and the roost overlook are concentrated in the southeast end of the Sanctuary. The northwestern portions of the Sanctuary are less accessible and are dedicated to the sanctuary of the timid birds. Many birds, in particular the Purple Martins that roost under the Causeway bridge, live in close association with human activities. Therefore the habitats that relate directly to the visitor center and walkways will not be lacking of birds.

The Sanctuary will serve pedestrians, bike riders, automobiles and buses. The Linear Park is an actively used walking and bike trail that would serve as a collector along the lakefront to provide pedestrian access. Auto access will be from Causeway Boulevard and arrangements for free parking have been secured at the Lakeway III garage for visitors who come to the site after 5:00 p.m.
An award-winning plan for the Sanctuary has been designed, economic projections developed, and land and water-bottom leases and permits obtained. In addition to its substantial local membership, "Project Swallow" has built a base of members throughout the U.S. and Canada. The group has worked collaboratively with local and national organizations including the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Save Our Lake Basin Foundation, local and state government agencies and many others. The project has also received tremendous support and recognition on all levels. Funding has been provided by corporate sponsors and material support has been promised by local government agencies.