Volunteers planted native trees around Algiers

Soul Tree Volunteers

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Dozens of volunteers showed up on Dec. 14 to help plant new trees in Algiers.

Sustaining our Urban Landscape or Soul is partnered with the city to plant sustainable trees and help educate communities on their importance.

Matt Wintercorn is one of the first Soul volunteers and has planted over 3,500 new trees throughout the city since 2016.

“We have all different varieties of trees that are gonna grow great because their natives, and we’re gonna try and re-forest this neighborhood," Wintercorn said.

The organization planted 10 bald cypress trees on Atlantic Avenue in Algiers. The needles from the tree come down around this time of year and can be collected to use as mulch.

"They cover the ground almost like snow, it’s almost like a blanket for the tree. it’s going to keep the soil really healthy,” Wintercorn said.

“But we need to get serious and we need to scale up and plant about 4 to 5 thousand a year,” Wintercorn said.

Susannah Burley is the founder of Soul and partnered with the city’s parks and parkways department backed by members of the city council.

She says the decision on where to plant each tree is specifically decided by the very residents who live in the neighborhoods they visit.

"That’s the most important thing is that we work with the community to achieve their vision for their neighborhood,” Burley said.

Volunteers with Soul will tell you that their mission isn’t just about beautifying the area or creating shade, but it’s part of a solution to a much larger issue that has been plaguing New Orleans residents for some time, stormwater.

“We’re a city with tremendous stormwater problems. We’re low, we’re in a bowl, we keep sinking, this neighborhood is sinking at about point 78 inches per year. We have too much stormwater for our drainage system to be able to process, so trees are an easy and very cheap way to manage stormwater,” Burley said.

"Trees like bald cypress, which we’re planting about 30 of today can drink about 880 gallons of stormwater a day when it’s raining,” Burley said.

While the mission has taken off due to this group of loyal and dedicated volunteers, burley believes the seeds have only just been planted.

There are only 104,000 public trees in the city and you need to plant around 1 million trees in order to manage stormwater, lower energy bills and absorb carbon.

“You don’t have to be an expert to do this. You don’t have to be a forester. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa to do this. Anybody can do this," Burley said.

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