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The Great Tree Comeback

By: Kevin Fitzwilliam

After Hurricane Katrina, the tree-covered landscape of New Orleans was decimated—over 100,000 trees were lost. The city went silent as the chirping of birds was quieted. Over time, natural rebirth and dedicated tree planting revived our landscape. Still, when an overhead satellite image of New Orleans is juxtaposed next to that of Atlanta, it provides startling proof that our city is drastically barren in comparison.

One local non-profit is changing that. Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL) works with neighborhood residents throughout the city to plant trees and bring back nature. Susannah Burley is the Founder and Director of SOUL, and she uses that overhead image of New Orleans as inspiration. “We are the most deforested city in the country,” said Burley. “When people learn that, they’re excited to be able to do something at the community level.” And that is just what SOUL has been accomplishing. SOUL has already planted over 880 trees in Mid-City, Treme, Broadmoor, and Freret; other areas such as Gentilly and New Orleans East are in the works. SOUL’s goal for next year is to plant 1,000 trees, with planting season between November and March.

The benefits are numerous. “Tree planting is the cheapest form of green infrastructure and the easiest to maintain,” said Burley. “Especially after the flood last year which brought back Katrina memories, this is something you can do at the grassroots level to have a feeling of control over that.”

Now you can help SOUL to expand its efforts. On September 29th SOUL will be hosting a Fall Treequinox Fundraiser at a historic Bywater home from 7-10pm. General admission tickets are $50 with Patron Party tickets selling for $100. Tickets can be purchased online at www.soulnola.org/treequinox or by calling 504 616 6888.

Kevin Fitzwilliam is a Fellow with Environmental Entrepreneurs and is the owner of Atlas Handmade Beads, a New Orleans company helping to move the Gulf South beyond plastic beads (atlasbeads.com). He can be reached at info@atlasbeads.com.