Ascension Episcopal Alumni Spotlight: One Man’s Mission to Restore Cajun Prairies to Benefit Louisiana’s Ecosystem

Ascension Episcopal School
One photographer, current LSU student, nature enthusiast, and Ascension Episcopal School alumni had the vision to create a prairie on his high school grounds. Tallgrass prairies are a vital part of Louisiana's ecosystem, but they are the most endangered habitat in North America, and he was on a mission to help restore them. 
 
 


In 2015 as a freshman at Ascension Episcopal School, Mr. Vanbergen began the work to plant 3 acres of native grasses and wildflowers on Ascension Episcopal School's Youngsville campus off of Chemin Metairie. Ascension’s Cajun Prairie was born in 2017 after two years of fundraising, grant-writing, and school approval.

“A prairie is a treeless habitat dominated by grass and usually has a very high diversity of wildflowers.  The Cajun Prairie was a grassland habitat that covered about 2.5 million acres of land in southwestern Louisiana and made up most of Lafayette and nearly all of Youngsville.  The habitat supported many highly endangered animals such as Attwater prairie chickens and whooping cranes,” writes Vanbergen in a high school paper written to educate others about the value of prairies on our delicate Louisiana ecosystem.

Additionally, as his senior capstone project in 2019, Mr. Vanbergen and his classmates installed a pollinator garden near the gymnasium on the Ascension Episcopal School’s Youngsville campus. Now in 2022, the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society (CPHPS) board unanimously declared Mr. Vanbergen CPHPS president after serving as vice president the prior year. 

Eric Vanbergen is an Ascension Episcopal School Alumni and is currently a 3rd-year student in LSU’s Landscape Architecture program. He has continued to design native plant gardens in Baton Rouge and installed LSU’s first pollinator habitat garden in April 2022. He looks forward to graduating from LSU in 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture and a minor in Horticulture. After graduation, Eric is excited to design native plant gardens throughout the United States that allow human civilization to thrive in harmony with biodiverse ecosystems.

With a prairie so close to home, if you are interested in supporting the preservation, joining the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society, or volunteering, contact Eric Vanbergen at ericvanbergen49@gmail.com

Two of this year’s goals for the society include the following: 
1 - Remove invasive trees from Ascension's 3-acre prairie, which are outcompeting native prairie grasses and wildflowers
2- Add native plant identification signage at Ascension’s pollinator garden  
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