CHALMETTE, La. (WGNO) — You could say that “Protecting New Orleans: Past, Present, and Future” is the theme of the tours given by St. Bernard EcoTourism, a company started in early 2020 by Monty Montelongo and his wife, Cheri.
He’s a police officer, she’s a former fifth-grade teacher, and they both are in love with the Louisiana coast, a passion they want to share with locals and visitors alike.
“I want them to come out and connect to our coast. Whether it be historical or educational. If we can’t capture something for you to go home with a connection to our coast, then we’re not doing our job,” says Monty.
The tours can be done via pontoon boat or airboat. Either way, guests are bound to see wildlife, while getting a lesson in ways that the coast has been protected throughout history.
Pricing and options can be found by clicking this link. The team took out WGNO Reporter Stephanie Oswald and Photographer Patrick Thomas for an adventure that started out in Bayou Bienvenue and passed through the inner and outer flood walls, including the massive Great Wall of Louisiana.
It’s nearly two miles long, took five years to build and can be seen from outer space! There is enough steel in the structure to build eight Eiffel Towers. Monty reminds guests that only 20 percent of the wall can be seen; the other 80 percent is below the water level.
In a place where the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina was 25 feet, the wall is ready for 26-foot waves.
The tour also visits Battery Bienvenue, a tertiary fortification built after the War of 1812, “Because this is one of the routes that the British used to invade the city of New Orleans after the Battle of Lake Borgne in December of 1814,” says Monty.
Our final stop was a look at a project started just a few months ago: aimed at safeguarding the future.
“They’re filling the marsh with sediment from Lake Borgne. This is part of the Golden Triangle Marsh creation project, which is gonna build nearly a thousand acres of marsh right here, to protect this area,” says Monty.
“We want to showcase what we have to locals and tourists alike because a lot of these folks down here and especially younger generations don’t really understand how significant our coast is and why we need it and why it’s important to us,” says Monty.
There’s even a sunset cruise option with live music, and they hope to incorporate Bingo games for kids in the future.