Green Around Acadiana | St. Landry Parish Visitor Center

If I said there was a building in South Louisiana that utilizes solar and wind power, incorporates passive energy efficiency design, collects rainwater, was built with reclaimed materials and showcases local plants and art, would you know where I'm talking about?

If I said that building is the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center, would you be surprised?

Nestled just off of I-49 Exit 23 north of Opelousas, the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center serves to provide travelers with information on notable places and current events in the parish, but it also serves as a destination in itself.

As I drove up to the center during a recent visit, I was struck by how much the initial view reminded me of a vineyard in California. I could easily picture myself with a group of friends, sitting at a wrought iron table next to that brick wall and sipping on a glass of wine.

The building is meant to evoke the Acadian architectural style and spirit, blending old-world culture with modern and eco-friendly amenities.

From the initial concept, the St. Landry Parish Tourism Commission aimed to construct a sustainable visitor center. Through a competitive process, three firms were chosen to design the building and surrounding landscaping. Construction began in 2010 and the center was opened in 2011. Although the building itself is not LEED-certified (an energy efficiency standard in the architecture world), much of the materials that went into construction are certified.

Every element of the building was strategically planned and built. The position of the building was determined by how the sun passes over, allowing the building to avoid overheating and diffusing light in the most efficient way possible. That kind of passive design helps to keep energy bills lower and maintain comfort without needing as much air conditioning or heating (which come from ductless units and a large ceiling fan when needed.)


Additionally, solar panels are integrated into the metal roof panels and the vertical wind turbine provides backup power for lighting.

The exterior 1,500 gallon cistern collects rainwater that's redistributed to the garden, which is made up of a variety of local plants and trees that reflects the area's ecosystems. Some of the species include eastern gama grass, bluestem varieties, blazing star, blackeyed susan, and compassplant. The center provides education on the plant species, what they're beneficial for, and how they've historically been used in our culture.

This purple coastal muhly grass was on full display during my visit, and has definitely inspired me to want to plan a ton of it in my own yard thanks to its delicate beauty.

As I walked through the garden with the tourism commission's executive director, Celeste, and marketing director, Sarah, we got to see two gorgeous butterflies up close as they hung around these slender rosinweed plants. Thank you, butterflies, for allowing me to have some extra fun with my new camera!

The floors and exterior brick are all reclaimed materials, with the wood salvaged from Washington, Louisiana, and the bricks sourced from Sunset, Louisiana. The mortar used on the exterior contains crushed oyster shells, and oyster shells make up drainage channels in front of the porch and throughout the garden.

 The lighting is all LED (which, even seven years ago, was not as common a practice).

The building's insulation heralds back to the old Acadian bousillage method, utilizing natural materials for insulation. Here, the cellulose insulation uses 85% recycled materials, including newsprint.

One of the most heavily trafficked spots in any visitor center is definitely the restrooms. Here, the bathrooms boast plenty of eco-friendly elements: the countertops are made of recycled quartz and glass, and the stall partitions are made of recycled polymer content. Water and electricity are conserved through the use of motion-detecting lights and water fixtures.

The visitor center proudly displays local art, giving it a feeling of a showcase gallery just off the interstate. A statue of Louisiana musician Amédé Ardoin was dedicated this past March, and a large metal fiddle adorns the outdoor garden (part of the parish's Fiddle Mania exhibit).

Combining reclaimed materials and local art, the center's new showpiece is this accordion kiosk, known as the Key of C Accordion, created by artist Kelly Guidry. The kiosk is a hands-on tool and allows users to access the tourism commission's website, The accordion’s keyboard buttons play songs from a variety of genres and educate visitors about the evolution of Cajun and zydeco music. One of the sculptures most impressive features is its mobility. Using a pulley system made with vintage window sash weights, the accordion can be adjusted to anyone’s height.

The available conference room also showcases local art pieces. One item currently on display is a couronne, a wreath of wax-dipped crepe flowers. In Louisiana history, a couronne de toussaints is placed on a loved one's grave on All Saints' Day (which coincidentally, is today.)

Although this post features the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center as a destination in itself with its local and eco-friendly elements, it's important to note that the center is moreso a starting point to visiting the parish and all it has to offer. Make plans for a day or weekend trip. The tourism commission's website and social media channels spotlight the many events and features that happen throughout the year, so you're bound to find something that interests you.

Tours of the center are available for tour groups, classes and even small groups.

Celeste and Sarah shared how beautiful the garden is in the spring, especially when the irises are blooming. I'm already planning a trip with Ariana next spring so I can begin to immerse her in the beauty of nature and Acadiana (and may just have to include lunch at The Little Big Cup in Arnaudville!) It's never too early to groom her for her role as Mini Eco Cajun!


Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm
I-49, Exit 23
978 Kennerson Road, Opelousas, LA, 70570
St. Landry Parish Event Calendar


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