Today we planted cypress and oak trees in Norco’s Wetland Watchers Park. This park was created as an outdoor learning center for grade school students. The vegetation in the park was destroyed by salt water intrusion during/after Hurricane Katrina. Therefore, we planted new trees to restore the wetlands.
We arrived to Norco’s Wetland Watchers around 10 in the morning, and started planting trees. We used an interesting tool known as the dibble. Which is in short an orange spear that you stick into the ground and pull out to make a hole to plant a tree. The oak trees required dry soil, which was kind of a challenge because we were in a moderately swampy area near Lake Pontchartrain. However, walking throughout the site allowed our group to find many areas that had dry soil.
Some members of our group were asked to clear out an area filled with Roseau cane. The Roseau cane needed to be removed for two reasons. One was that since they were so tall, they would have overshadowed the smaller trees we were planting. Also, we were going to take this Roseau cane and plant them on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Clearing the Roseau cane took about an hour, only because whenever our amazing volunteers cleared out a specific plot of land, more cane just magically sprouted through the ground. After losing half of our body fluids, the whole group decided to take a lunch break.
After lunch break, we began planting baby cypress trees. Cypress trees need to be planted in very moist soil. Meaning it was not very hard looking for places to plant Cypress trees in the swamp. During this project we got to use hip-high boots while walking through thick mud to plant trees. After planting all of the cypress trees, we went on to plant the Roseau cane on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This was also another project where we got to use boots.
“This entire trip as been such an eye-opening experience! Today was the culmination of a week-long wetlands restoration project. Today we got muddy. We worked with our hands. We waded through mud and tangled brush to plant trees. I will never look at trees the same way again! What really struck me was being able to see the different generations of trees. I passed by one tree that was planted on May 2, 2007 (I know that because it was tagged). I was happy to see it so strong and healthy. I couldn’t help but think of what the volunteers who planted that tree would say if they saw it today as I saw it. It is a good feeling to know that what we are doing will still be visible for years to come. Toward the end of the day, I asked one of our organization leaders about the age of one of the taller cypress tress. She said the one I was pointing to was about 40 years old. It made me smile to think that may be the tree that I just planted one day.” – Mrs. Cutchens
“Today was personally my favorite volunteering day because Norco’s Wetland Watchers Park embodied all that I imagined about New Orleans- muddy swampland. All of us had been looking forward to, and probably imagining, how this day would happen even before we left from Tampa. As we were driving this morning the fog was really heavy. It was hard to see a truck 15 feet in front of you. I thought this was the most mystic part of our New Orleans vacation but that’s probably just my opinion. As we drove up to what we thought was our site, Crystal said the oddest thing. She said this is where Keebler Elves lived and produced their world famous cookies. Of course we all laughed at her comment but I could imagine these woodlands housing mystical things, including chocolate cookie constructing elves.” – Sidney Perles
“I am very surprised about how many people devote their lives or part of their lives to environmental work. I mean, sure on paper the number of environmental volunteers are huge, but you really don’t understand the power of that number until you go out and start planting. Our group of 16 volunteers nursed hundreds and planted over a thousand trees in these past five days. Along with just doing the work, 16 USF Bulls have learned why keeping our environment clean and healthy is important, because it is definitely much harder to restore your environment than maintaining it.” – Gopal Amin
“It was a cold war out there, as if the wilderness was testing our mettle to see if we could stand her tests. She had been hurt before, and she was determined to come back stronger than ever, and unless we could match her passion, she wasn’t going to let us help. The mud pulled us deep into the swamp like a giant mouth sucking us down. The branches of dead trees stabbed and whacked us wildly, quickly earning them the nickname “zombie trees”. Even the animals of the wild stopped us, from the guerrilla attacks of rabbits on our new saplings to the hordes of fire ants and snakes waiting on the arming the branches of our zombie foes, but we were determined to fight on, and we planted hundreds of young cypress and oak trees across the wetlands, each one with a story of adventure and bravery describing how it came to grow in its sunny clearing.” – Amit Patel