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Reforestation begins in historic Pontchartrain Park, volunteers needed Saturday

The project will happen in seven phases - the first being this weekend - where the group and dozens of volunteers will plant 100 native trees.

NEW ORLEANS — This weekend, you can be a part of bringing history back to the historic Pontchartrain Park neighborhood. 

Local nonprofit organization Sustaining Our Urban Landscape, or SOUL, will launch its reforesting park project Saturday, October 16. It involves planting a tree in front of every home in the community. 

The project will happen in seven phases - the first being this weekend - where the group and dozens of volunteers will plant 100 native trees.

“Trees want to grow here,” says Susannah Burley, SOUL’s Executive Director. “We’re planting green infrastructure that can make a huge environmental impact.

Pontchartrain Park was built in 1955 as a first planned suburban development for a black community. The land was previously a cypress-tupelo forest. After much development, the neighborhood suffered a bit for a lack of trees torn down. 

"Some of the issues are flooding," SOUL's Board of Director Eugene Green said. "Sometimes flooding takes place during just regular rainstorms and some of it has to do with the lack of trees, the lack of roots to kind of suck up some of that water. Certain trees can suck up a sign amount of water during a rain event. Obviously, we don't have that here throughout many parts of our community which is a beautiful community. The enhancement will take place with the planting of these trees."

Burley says this project will make a huge environmental impact that residents can appreciate for decades.

"We pay for all of the trees, and we plant all of the trees, and we also hire the wonderful, local landscape company to water all of our trees once a week for one year. That first year is critical to have a proper maintenance because we really want the trees to survive. They have to survive and reach maturity to make the really big impact of storm water runoff, flooding, air pollution, etc," Burley explained.

Green grew up in the historic community and says he's looking forward to the productivity the trees will bring and being a part of the neighborhood, he grew up loving.

"I'd like to commend the city of New Orleans for having identified the Pontchartrain Park community as the participant of flood mitigation projects. That combined with what we're doing and the fact that it's just a great historic community is going to mean a lot for people in this area, and in our city." 

At 9:45 am volunteers will meet at the lot across from the Bethany United Methodist Church at 4533 Mendez Street and plant until 1pm. The event will kick off with brief announcements by the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, SOUL and the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways. Then volunteers will disperse to their assigned locations. 

To volunteer at a tree-planting event, contact Rachel Conway rconway@soulnola.org/(504)233-4639 or sign up online here. Social distancing and COVID protocols are practiced at SOUL’s planting events. Masks are required.

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