Thousands of trees given away to 2016 flood victims

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Tree Recovery Campaign to help Livingston Parish flood victims recover after the Great Flood of 2016 kicked off Saturday afternoon.

The sound of trees blowing in the wind in the yard of your home might sound like a small request, but for victims of the August 2016 flood, it's a symbol of triumph.

"It will just make me feel like progress is being made to get these trees out in the yard," said flood victim Faye Tillery.

"Trees are healing," said Sage Foley, Executive Director of Baton Rouge Green. "It's remarkable what planting a tree can do for a person's sense of place or sense of ownership."

Some flood victims, like Tillery, are either just moving back to their remodeled home or still rebuilding.

"After spending the money on redoing the house. There's very little money left for trees and things," said Tillery.

Baton Rouge Green, in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and Texas Roadhouse gave away 1,000 new trees in 3-gallon containers at Denham Springs High School to help flood victims in their recovery.

Abbie Eisenhart, Program Manager for the Arbor Day Foundation said there's a more long-term emotional recovery and trees are part of that.

"When people lose trees, they really feel that emotion a lot," she said.

"At Texas Roadhouse, our community focus extends well beyond the four walls of our restaurants," said Travis Doster, Senior Director of Public Relations at Texas Roadhouse.

Officials said between August 11 and August 14, 2016, more than 20 inches of rain fell in areas of Denham Springs and Baton Rouge. Foley said it's hard to estimate just how many trees were lost because they don't die immediately.

"The stress of the tremendous water and then the tremendous drought that followed right afterward, it takes a while for trees to show how much damage and stress they've been through," Foley said.

Just to make sure they're building back the ecosystem bigger and better than before, these groups have supplied 7 different trees native to the state that are made to withstand drought and runoff from flood waters. Foley said these trees can take a lot of beating.

"They mature pretty sort of fast and they do a lot of the heavy lifting. They are what we consider canopy trees," he said.

Their hope is that these trees hold up to the next natural disaster and make our area stronger for future generations.

"It'll be a reminder of what we went through a few years ago and it'll be a symbol of us rebuilding as a family and community," said flood victim Brannan Webb.

The Louisiana Tree Recovery Campaign has assisted more than 200 communities in planting or distributing more than 4.6 million trees since its inception in 2012.

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