Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tulane Sig Eps Help Plant Trees for KaTREEna

Students plant Broadway’s greenery
MELANIE ALEMAN

Students were more than just wearing green this St. Patrick’s Day weekend; they were being “green.”
Many woke up at 8:15 a.m. on March 14 to plant trees along Broadway Street with Hike for KaTREEna.

Hike for KaTREEna — a nonprofit organization that seeks to replant the New Orleans’ urban tree canopy destroyed by Hurricane Katrina — worked in conjunction with Tulane University, the City of New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways and six neighborhood associations to create the “Replant Broadway” project, which planted 260 trees of six different varieties down the Uptown street.

More than 250 volunteers —primarily Loyola and Tulane students — gathered at the Tulane quad in front of The Boot Bar and Grill in support of the event, grabbing shovels and working together in small planting groups from Fountainebleau Drive to the end of Broadway Street at the river.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Kappa Psi fraternities, the Loyola University Community in Action Program and Bridging the Gap were just some of the Loyola student groups supporting “Replant Broadway.”

“Students litter on Broadway and destroy it, so it’s nice that now we are doing something to improve it,” said LUCAP volunteer and philosophy senior Kelly Steyer.

People driving by showed their support as well: honking their horns, giving the thumbs-up sign or shouting a “thanks” from car windows. The Boot also showed its support by providing a drink special for all the volunteers after the planting was done.

“I was floored with the number of volunteers. The turn out was great and everyone was pretty into it for the most part. Everything went great, even in the rain,” said Monique Pilié, founder of Hike for KaTREEna.

At 10:30 a.m. it began to rain — benefiting the trees, but soaking volunteers. The rain slowed down the planting slightly, but the event concluded at noon as initially planned, Pilié said.

With this event, Hike for KaTREEna will have planted over 4,000 trees in the greater New Orleans area, Pilié said. Pilié, a Loyola alumni, formulated the idea of Hike for KaTREEna in 2006 when she left her native New Orleans to fulfill her life’s goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

After Katrina, Pilié used the hike as an awareness and fundraising effort to fund the planting of 2,175 trees in New Orleans — one for every mile of the trail.

According to Pilié, 100,000 trees were lost to Hurricane Katrina, so she set this number as her current goal of trees to be replanted. Her initial goal of 2,175 trees was completed in October 2008. Since then, she said, Hike for KaTREEna has been gaining momentum.

“Replant Broadway” took four months to plan with the initiative of Uptown resident, Ted Le Clercq. Le Clercq held another planting before on St. Charles Avenue and contacted Pilié to replant Broadway Street since its trees were particularly damaged by Katrina’s floodwaters, he said.

New Orleans’ residents and institutions have donated $15,000 to the “Replant Broadway” project; yet, $2,500 is still needed so every tree planted on Broadway can have a “gator bag,” which helps water the trees, Le Clercq said. Melanie Aleman can be reached at mmaleman@loyno.edu.