I am 225: Justin Lemoine

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that ELS Landscape Architecture Studio was Justin Lemoine’s past job, not his day job as previously printed. 225 regrets the error.

Justin Lemoine wants you to get outside in your backyard and see the Atchafalaya Swamp, or what he calls “The Yellowstone of Louisiana.” Better yet, he’d love to see you help preserve it.

Lemoine’s roots, after all, run as deep as the Atchafalaya River itself. He was born and raised in Plaucheville, a small town in Avoyelles Parish. Coming from a long lineage of Cajuns, he sees firsthand Louisiana’s culture slowly fading away. Many members of his hometown were once French speaking and over the last few decades, that language has slowly disappeared. Lemoine’s eagerness to preserve Louisiana culture is part of the reason he joined the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area as its executive director in 2020. The foundation promises to help conserve Louisiana’s landscape and its connections between people, culture and the environment.

Lemoine’s interests aren’t just in preserving southeast Louisiana culture—but also in preserving the land. He recently joined the board of Baton Rouge Green, a nonprofit that plants trees across the Capital City. The urban forestry advocacy organization supports stormwater management, as well as Louisiana’s ecosystem and native habitats.

And that’s something Lemoine got quite familiar with in his past job. As the owner and lead designer of ELS Landscape Architecture Studio, he’s designed public spaces from Lake Charles to New Orleans, ranging from commercial projects to community plans for the state. All of his designs place sustainability at the forefront.

One memorable project was BREC’s North Sherwood Forest Community Park. Working alongside Montoya Design Group, he helped construct wetlands, a new pond, a promenade, fishing piers, a pavilion over the wetlands and a splash pad and children’s playground. Rainwater drains into the ponds, which then flows into the constructed wetlands. The process filters and stores stormwater before it’s released into the regional stormwater system. He says his favorite part of working on the project was designing the areas that bring people together, such as the playground, trellis area and promenade.

Like the waterways of Louisiana have pulled people together for centuries, Lemoine is enthusiastic about finding new ways to bring communities together.

He and his friends started the MidCity Makers Market in 2015. What began as a small holiday trunk show with just 12 vendors has quickly grown. The monthly market now has nearly 290 artists in mediums ranging from paintings, sculptures and jewelry to glasswork, baked items and leather goods.

“It’s almost like an outdoor department store,” Lemoine says, “where we’re just acknowledging all of the hard work of the creators that make things by hand here in the region.” atchafalaya.org

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of 225 magazine.