St. Landry Parish is the home of famous musicians, chefs and artists. The parish now has a new claim to fame – the only “green” visitor center in Louisiana and one of the few in the United States.
Green construction and parish culture are highlights at the new St. Landry Visitor Information Center, located at I-49 exit 23, just north of Opelousas. The center’s grand opening is set for Monday, May 23 from 1-3 p.m.
The 4,600-square foot center features exhibit and display areas for tourist information, a meeting area, public restrooms and administrative offices for the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission. The center also promotes green construction through its environmentally-friendly design and use of natural resources. Those resources include rain water collected from a cistern, once a common feature at rural parish homes. A wind turbine helps power the center and reclaimed materials are featured throughout, from recycled asphalt in the parking lot to salvaged bricks and pine flooring from old buildings.
"As soon as the signage was placed along 1-49, tourists began stopping at our new Visitor Center," said Celeste D. Gomez, Director for the St. Landry Tourist Commission. “Visitors have been very impressed with the design and elements used in the construction and their interest is peaked even more as we tell them about St. Landry Parish's offerings. Through marketing and word of mouth, we know that travelers will want to add our sustainable-friendly venue to their itinerary, enabling us to tell our story about St. Landry Parish and the culture we live."
With more than 26,000 cars traveling on I-49 each day, travel counselors at the Visitor Center will direct tourists into the parish to experience its rich music, food, history, culture and outdoor life. St. Landry Parish, where zydeco music was born and Cajun music thrives, is the birthplace of Grammy-winning zydeco musicians Clifton Chenier, Rockin’ Sidney and Terrance Simien. Venues for these infectious sounds abound.
Flavorful Cajun and Creole cuisine, made famous by native chefs Paul Prudhomme and Tony Chachere, are plentiful in settings ranging from candlelight dining in an age- old restaurant to a stick-to-your-ribs plate lunch at a grocery store deli. History lives throughout the parish at homes, schools and churches that have stood for centuries.
St. Landry, a 939-square mile parish in south central Louisiana, is also known for its natural beauty and wildlife. The center showcases those surroundings with landscape that displays six of Louisiana’s seven major ecosystem types. The building’s orientation and overhangs maximize daylight and conserve energy while the hipped roof can withstand high winds. Solar panels will also help to provide electricity.
Following the grand opening, the center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will eventually open seven days a week.