With holidays over, Christmas trees begin trek to wetlands

Christmas trees from around the parish, which were nestled inside homes and decorated with lights a couple of weeks ago, will soon move on to another purpose – stopping erosion of the state’s wetlands.

St. Charles Parish residents will be able to recycle their live Christmas trees by dropping them off at the East and West Bank Bridge Parks until Jan. 9, with curbside pickup by public works crews continuing until that date.

From there, the trees will be used to construct fences in the St. Charles Parish wetlands to trap sediment and help rebuild the marsh. The parish has participated in this state-funded program for more than 22 years, according to Coastal Zone Management Administrator Earl Matherne.

Approximately 10 acres of new marsh has been built so far.
Unlike other trees, Christmas trees are large and lightweight and allow the movement of water and sediment without being a barrier. The limbs are also organic and provide an ideal fisheries habitat. The brush fences that are created by the trees allow the creation of marsh habitat, while also providing an effective wavebreak and increasing water clarity.

The prototype of the current brush fence was actually implemented for the first time in St. Charles Parish in 1989. At that time, 23 brush fences were built and filled with 8,000 used Christmas trees obtained from local citizens. The fences were inserted into the La Branche Wetlands.

The project really took off after that, and in 1996, former President Bill Clinton donated 50 Christmas trees from the White House, which were all placed into the Louisiana marsh. Throughout the past 16 years of the program, 40,000 linear feet of brush fences has been built, protecting 250 acres of marsh.

Over 1.5 million trees have been used so far and 13 parishes will participate in the program this year.

Not only is the project beneficial because it protects the wetlands, but it also relieves overburdened landfills.


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