HAMMOND, LA (WAFB) - Southeastern Louisiana University is asking residents to do something useful for the environment with their discarded Christmas trees this year.
"We can put the old Christmas trees to work in our area marshland while also reducing the waste stream going into landfills," said Rob Moreau, manager of SLU's Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station on Pass Manchac.
Despite a lack of grant funding, state and local partners have pitched in to make the project possible. The discarded trees will be used to build up marshland in areas that have been impacted by erosion and other factors.
For the third year, the Southeastern Sustainability Center has partnered with the project and will serve as a drop-off point for residents to leave their trees after Christmas. Another drop-off site is Middendorf's Restaurant in Manchac.
Trees can be dropped of beginning December 26 through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, located at 18104 Hwy. 190 next to the Piggly Wiggly. The Southeastern Sustainability Center will collect discarded tree beginning January 5 through January 31 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 to 10 a.m. on Friday. A Turtle Cove drop-off site will also be maintained at Middendorf's Restaurant.
The City of Hammond will provide transportation of the collected trees to the Turtle Cove Galva Canal parking lot in Manchac, where they will be stored until they are taken to the marshes. No flocked trees will be accepted and all trees should be stripped of ornaments, lights, tinsel, and stands.
The trees will be used to continue a pilot project started last year to determine whether or not the recycled trees can help fill in logging ditches, formed when the area's cypress forests were cut down over a 100-year span.
"The ditches allow salt water intrusion and increase the erosion process. Under the supervision of biology researcher, Dr. Gary Shaffer, we will place trees in some selected ditches to determine if they can accumulate enough sediment that might assist in filling them in. We'll monitor and evaluate this process over the next several years to determine its feasibility. If successful, this technique could be used in other similarly stressed ecosystems in coastal Louisiana," said Moreau.
This is the 22nd straight year SLU has conducted its recycled tree program. The program depends on volunteers and students to deploy the trees in the Manchac wetlands. More than 35,000 trees have been deployed as part of the program.
Moreau says the benefits of the recycling program include protection against shoreline erosion, building of land to offset subsidence and sea-level rise, creation of new habitats for plants and animals, and reducing waste going to landfills. "The program is also a great way to conduct community service and environmental education from a hands-on standpoint for people of all ages," said Moreau.
For more information, visit www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove and look under the Events link.
Donations to help support the program can be sent by check, made payable to Friends of Turtle Cove and mailed to SLU at Box 10585 Hammond, LA 70402. Donations can also be made by credit card by visiting the Turtle Cove website under the Friends and Donors link.