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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is home to the only managed wetland on a U.S. college campus. That makes its new Cypress Lake Plaza Pier the only structure of its kind in the country.
The elevated path stretches out about 100 feet into the lake, enabling students, faculty and staff members to take leisurely strolls into the heart of an ecosystem teeming with wildlife such as alligators, herons, turtles and fish.
It also provides University students – and elementary and secondary students on field trips – a means for immersing themselves in a natural setting to study subjects such as biology, said Scott Hebert, UL Lafayette’s director of facility planning and construction.
“It’s already become a destination point. People flock to it when they walk by. But it’s also designed to enhance the educational experience for educators and students who can basically travel into a wetland,” Hebert said.
The recently-dedicated pier is part of the University’s Master Plan for campus growth and development. It was designed by Architects Southwest and built by JB Mouton LLC. Hebert said the pier “can support as many people as can fit on it.”
The pier, which contains a long bench for sitting and LED lights beneath it, is about 10 feet wide. It’s supported by half-inch steel pillars about a foot in diameter that have been driven 35 feet deep into the lake bottom. Steel cross beams stretching across the pillars are topped with pre-cast concrete.
Wrought iron handrails run the length of each side of the pier. Hebert said an outer set of iron rails are designed to prevent wildlife from clambering atop the pier.
The pier is part of a larger, ongoing project – the Cypress Lake Plaza. The plaza is the centerpiece of a green space adjacent to the Student Union where students can gather and relax at a spot that is already one of the main drawing points on campus, similar to the Quadrangle.
It is also a place where range of University events, including the popular Lagniappe Week, will be held. Lagniappe Week features canoe races in the lake, and a crawfish boil.
The plaza holds pergolas, steel arbors under which picnic tables will be situated. The areas will be equipped with electrical hookups and Wi-Fi access. The green space also contains a small amphitheater where student organizations will be able to gather and hold speeches.