Group offers direction to deal with damage left by Gustav

By Ed Cullen
Baton Rouge, LA (October 16, 2008)- Before Hurricane Gustav made Labor Day a day no one’s likely to forget, tree lectures were attended by 12 people, all of whom knew one another. That’s the way East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works’ Steve Shurtz characterizes pre-storm get-togethers to talk about trees. The night’s tree talk audience was bigger than ones held before the storm, Shurtz said. More than 50 homeowners packed the archives’ small auditorium to listen to Shurtz, LSU associate professor of forestry Hallie Dozier and wholesale nurseryman Rick Webb.

Shurtz was nearing the end of another long day one night at the Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane, where Baton Rouge Green, in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission and Kean Miller law firm, was holding a Re-Green Baton Rouge panel discussion on good trees to plant to replace ones that fell in the Labor Day storm. Shurtz, a landscape architect and arborist, is the Department of Public Works’ urban forest manager.
The view Sept. 1 from engineer Hardin Wells’ windows on West Woodstone Court was an audio visual presentation he doesn’t care to see again. Woodstone is off Highland Road, about a mile south of Lee Drive. Wells and wife Crissi can’t get used to having light from the setting sun in their eyes at the dinner table, but Wells said, if anything, the storm has energized him and his wife.
“We’d taken for granted our tree cover at the back of our yard… It was gut wrenching. The winds came in waves. You’d hear this jet engine sound in the distance, and you knew another wave was coming … that sickening sound of the trees breaking off and falling.” The Wellses lost a small water oak, several crape myrtles, a good-size (cooking) pear tree and 17 pine trees.
At the tree talk, Wells was particularly interested in what Amite nurseryman Webb had to say. “He got me to thinking,” Wells said. While many Baton Rouge property owners lost trees that will take at least 20 years to grow back, Webb’s thinking is more immediate. “I’m not big on a Top 10 list,” Webb said. “But I’d like people to make natural screenings with native plants for birds. Arrow-wood viburnum comes to mind immediately. Fall color. White, late spring flowers and blue fruit in late summer. The fruit rarely gets black (the color of ripe fruit) because the birds just hammer it.”
What else?
“All of the hollies. Native yaupon. Any of the native hollies. Mix deciduous and evergreen plants so you don’t lose the screen effect. Come out 15 feet from the boundary line and plant a diversity of plants in layers, a thicket, to give the bird screen some depth.”
The Wellses say Entergy has been helpful in the post-storm weeks. “They’re going to take some additional trees,” Wells said. “They offered to take some limbs out of our live oak that aren’t in the servitude.” Crews picked up 2 million cubic yards of debris in the month after Gustav, Shurtz said. “And we’re still counting.” Dozier cautioned tree owners against paying tree companies up front for work. “Get a written contract,” she said. “When will the work start? When will it be finished?” Call the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry before hiring an arborist, Dozier said.
Related Resources:
The Advocate- Group offers direction to deal with damage left by Gustav
Hurricane Gustav Highlights the Need for Storm Safety Landscaping
WBRZ News 2- Help Re-green Baton Rouge
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
Baton Rouge Green
Return to the Forest Where We Live