Parish keeps tradition alive — along with the environment

Live Christmas trees collected by the parish.

Collecting live Christmas trees this month to fortify coastal restoration efforts

While largely discontinued elsewhere, St. Charles Parish continues on with the tradition it was the first to establish years ago as it will collect live Christmas trees from residents in order to recycle them for coastal restoration.

The St. Charles Parish Public Works Department will pick up the trees for recycling curbside around the parish starting today (Jan. 10), then once each of the next two weeks on Jan. 17 and Jan. 24.

Drop-off sites will also be available at the East and West Bank Bridge Parks in Destrehan and Luling until Jan. 24. Trees must be stripped of all decorations and flocked trees will not be accepted.

All trees are being used as wave and tide barriers, as they have in years past, and will be used to replace degraded trees in the barrier pens in the Bayou Gauche area.

According to parish Planning and Zoning Director Earl Matherne, in the area the pens are used sediment has settled to the bottom of the ponds, making them shallow enough that vegetation has grown. That has created a better environment for fish and amphibious animals, as well as better for waterfowl

“Simply put, they’ve worked for us,” said Matherne.

“Simply put, they’ve worked for us.” – Earl Matherne

That said, while the benefits to the coastal environment have been apparent, the practice has lost support in other areas for an unrelated reason – Christmas trees haven’t been as popular as they once were. Because people seem to be buying less real trees, Matherne believes, participation has shrunk, to the point where the state has stopped providing funding for the project.

As a result, St. Charles Parish was not only the first parish to adopt the program, it’s effectively the last.

Matherne said the project came to be as the brainchild of a coast sciences professor at LSU, Dr. John Day. He suggested the plan to his contacts in St. Charles Parish.

LaBranche was an ideal place to start because it was visible from the interstate and could spark interest elsewhere in Louisiana.

Last year, St. Charles Parish collected approximately 3,500 trees, which went toward covering 1,200 acres of pond.

Once upon a time, that number averaged around 8,000 trees about 15 years ago. Now, Matherne said about 3,000 to 5,000 is the expected haul.

But it’s still a worthwhile project, the trees’ bushy nature and overall availability making them ideal barrier pen fortification. Additionally, Matherne added, it keeps them from going into the landfill, maintaining another environmental benefit.

Christmas Tree pickup

  • Parish will pick up trees left curbside on Jan. 10, Jan. 17 and Jan. 24.
  • Drop-off sites are also available at the East and West Bank Bridge Parks in Destrehan and Luling through Jan. 24.
  • Trees must be stripped of all decorations and flocked trees will not be accepted.
  • All trees will be used as wave and tide barriers to replace degraded trees in Bayou Gauche barrier pens, ultimately creating a better environment for water life in the area.

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