January 5, 2022 Mandeville, La.
The Louisiana Iris Conservation Initiative (LICI) partnered with the Honey Island Group - Sierra Club Delta Chapter and the St. Tammany Master Gardener Association, among others, in January 2021 to restore a section of Fontainebleau State Park near the beach by planting irises and cypress trees. (See more info here: https://www.facebook.com/licisaveirises/posts/243781207314918 ) This work was done as part of the two local groups joint effort to help beautify Fontainebleau State Park by planting native Louisiana plants and trees and working on invasive tree species removal.
Fountainebleau State Park is located just east of Mandeville, La., north of New Orleans.
LICI was asked a few months ago to once again help out by organizing a cypress tree seedling planting utilizing 400+ seedlings that were donated to the park. The original plan was to plant more Louisiana irises in the location of last January's planting on the same day that the seedlings were to be planted. The weather disrupted those plans when the area experienced a very dry and warm late fall and early winter. The hard, dry ground finally received enough rain by late December to make the seedling planting doable. The iris planting part of the game plan was delayed to another time because the cypress tree planting had to be rushed through with an "all hands on deck" volunteer event to plant them while some out of state university students hosted by Common Ground Relief were in the area for a week of service projects.
The Common Ground Relief volunteer group was made up of students from the University of South Dakota. Local LICI volunteers made plans to help out, as well. Volunteers from Honey Island Group - Sierra Club Delta Chapter, St. Tammany Master Gardener Association, Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans and the Mandeville Rotary Club were also invited to be part of the event.
Unexpected volunteers from the general public are shown arriving after a New Orleans TV news interview with the park manager about the tree planting included him inviting "everyone to come out to help plant the trees."
Then, on the morning of the event, Fox 8 TV did a live remote broadcast interview with the park manager and Charlotte Clarke, Common Ground Relief's executive director, during which the manager invited the public to come out to help plant the tree seedlings. That brought out 30 volunteers from the public, in addition to the volunteers with the other organizations. In other words, there was no shortage of volunteers to get the trees planted!
(Photo left to right) LSU's AgCenter's William Afton, Master Gardener Kim Burt, Common Ground Relief's Charlotte Clark, park manager Fouad Harb and LICI's Gary Salathe exchange friendly barbs as they find themselves standing among an anxious crowd of 50 volunteers raring to go planting trees at the start of the event.
All of the seedlings were planted within the two hours. It was a fine day with people of all ages helping out, including representatives of three boy-scout troops.
Common Ground Relief's Charlotte Clarke is seen giving some of the volunteers a demonstration on how to use a dibble to plant the seedlings.
Park manager, Fouad Harb, joined in the fun by planting a few cypress tree seedlings.