Shelter from the storm

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012



NORCO – The cypress swamp that marks a portion of the southwest shore of Lake Pontchartrain near the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish became a little more full Tuesday as a volunteer group from Entergy and the New Orleans Hornets planted more than 900 young bald cypress trees as part of a coastal restoration event.

Roughly 50 volunteers, made up of Hornets employees and season ticket holders, spent more than three hours trudging through the swamp near the Wetland Watchers Park in Norco to plant the trees, which were provided by the America’s Wetland Foundation.

“We worked with Common Ground Relief, a non-profit group out of New Orleans that handles environmental programs to restore and strengthen wetlands,” said Buddy Boe, a project manager for America’s Wetland Foundation. “The spillway and this shoreline need protection, and this was one of their planting areas. The trees came from farms in the spillway operated by Common Ground.”

The project is part of an ongoing community effort executed by the Hornets known as “Planet Rebound.” Shelly Cayette, Hornets director of community investment, said the group tries to organize at least one environmentally conscious project a month in an effort to educate fans and others in the community on environmental responsibility.

“Coastal restoration is a key element of the program,” she said. “We did a similar planting last year in the Bayou Sauvage wildlife refuge in New Orleans East. We are hoping to draw attention to the need to restore wetland areas around the lake that add protection during a  hurricane.”

Boe said another planting in the area around the Wetland Watcher Park is being planned for later this year and will involve some of the area elementary schools.

“We want them to understand the value of this region and that it is worth protecting,” Boe said. “The wetlands are the first line of defense between storm surge and homes and businesses.”