Giving Back: A Guide for Adaptive Reuse of Borrow Sites in Coastal Louisiana

Open Water, Coastal Louisiana Wetlands in Orleans Parish

Locations from which soil is taken to build Louisiana’s earthen levees are called borrow pits or borrow sites Pits vary in size and depth and they’re often left as-is in the landscape after all the needed material is removed.  A preliminary plan was developed by LSU researchers to serve as a guide for restoring these mined sites to be productive habitat in support of bio-diversity and recreational fishing.

LSU researchers through Sea Grant funding, Bruce Sharky, professor of landscape architecture at LSU, and graduate assistant Peter Summerlin have devised a plan to turn these literal holes in the ground into productive habitat to promote bio-diversity, outdoor recreation, and education sites. More than 50 borrow sites (already mined or potential sites) exist in parishes on both sides of the Mississippi River.  Working closely with Professor Sharky, Peter Summerlin has developed restorations plans for 11 sites in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.

“Peter has developed plans and designed how these sites could be refigured in terms of topography and vegetation to support fishing, wildlife and education,” said Sharky. Restoration strategies include re-establishing native plants and developing other features so the sites can support native fish and bird species. Additionally, recreational fishing and birding facilities such as board walks, piers and information/education amenities are planned.

All 11 sites are near urban population centers. “The concept is to give people an alternative place for family outdoor recreation and school fieldtrips,” added Sharky. The restored sites also could provide some level of flood and protection.

The concept was presented to the State of Louisiana Department of Wild Life and Fisheries in October.  The planning report received a very positive reception and is under consideration for possible future applications for borrow sites throughout the State.

Sharky is hopeful that this initial research will serve as a model for identifying other borrow sites that have potential to be transformed. The end goal is to create a design handbook for borrow pit habitat restoration to apply state-wide.

Copies of the publication Giving Back are available through


This provides an overview of my interests and travels

I have traveled by land from the Arctic Ocean to southern Chile, with stretches in Peru and northern Chile still to complete. I have photographic and produced watercolors documenting and interpreting the varied landscapes in my travels. My research interests focus on integrating culture and the environment to create sustainable, disaster resilient communities. I teach with an emphasis on urban growth issues and environments at risk as a result of natural hazards and have publications including book chapters on the design of hazard resilient communities in coastal regions and publications exploring phenomenological issues of unique landscapes. I have developed a graduate-level landscape architecture course using field trips to the Lower Rio Grande Valley to introduce students to approaches that integrate culture and history of a unique cultural landscape in the design of historic communities located on both sides of the Rio Grande River in Texas and Mexico. Professor Sharky has a diverse and long-time experience working in different environments and different cultures, largely in regions of natural hazard risk. I was a partner of a landscape architecture firm in Alaska for 15 years prior to coming to LSU.

I have led summer study abroad courses, each summer in the last ten years. The countries where these courses have taken place include: Mexico (multiple times) and once each Portugal, China, and the Netherlands. The focus of these courses explore cross-cultural approaches of design informed by history, culture and the arts in creating culturally responsive physical design of public spaces, parks, communities.

Bayou Bienvenue Central Wetlands Restoration Plan

Bayou Bienvenue Central Wetland Restoration Report

Bruce Water Coloring in China

Getting ready to load up some good stuff

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