Program Aims to Plant Trees throughout Baton Rouge

By Chuck Hustmyre
Baton Rouge, LA (November 1, 2007)- Barbi Landano just shrugs it off when friends call her a tree hugger. “It doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “I love trees.” Landano, 30, is the project coordinator for Baton Rouge Green’s new NeighborWoods Program. The program’s first public project will be to plant 20 trees at 20 new low-income modular home sites to be located at various locations in the city.

Most of the 20 trees will be planted in old South Baton Rouge, which is roughly the area running between Dalrymple Drive and Nicholson Drive, and between LSU and downtown. Baton Rouge Green will plant the first tree in mid-November in front of a model modular house near the corner of Main and 26th streets. Mayor Kip Holden is scheduled to cut the ceremonial ribbon, although a firm date has not yet been set.
Trees are important not only to the environment but to almost every other aspect of our lives, said Landano, who, in addition to her work at Baton Rouge Green, is also a graduate student in environmental science at LSU. “Trees make a neighborhood a better place,” she said, echoing the new program’s slogan, “Trees make good neighbors.”
Landano, a New Jersey native, found herself working for the environment in Baton Rouge almost by accident. After graduating from Rowan University in her home state, she got a job as a veterinarian’s technician. After a while, she realized she needed a change. “My other love,” she said, “besides animals, is the environment.” After taking an environmental science class at a local community college, Landano decided on a career change. “I liked the class so much I decided to come back full time and get a master’s degree in it.” Since her parents had moved to Baton Rouge, Landano enrolled in LSU’s environmental science graduate program. She is writing her dissertation on the NeighborWoods Program.
Sue Heflin had been the executive director of Baton Rouge Green since 2001, and although she stepped down from her paid position as head of the nonprofit at the end of September, she said she will remain actively involved with the organization. “I’m not leaving Baton Rouge Green,” Heflin said with a slight chuckle. “I’m promoting myself to volunteer.” Heflin said she is excited about the new program. “We’re going to plant 20 trees this fall,” she said, “and we’re going to plant a whole bunch more in the early spring.”
Baton Rouge is one of only 12 cities nationwide to receive a $20,000 grant for its NeighborWoods Program, Heflin said. The money comes from The Home Depot Foundation and is administered by the Alliance for Community Trees. But the grant came with the stipulation that the recipient organizations have matching funds. Matching funds for Baton Rouge Green are coming in part from the East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority, the Barton Family Foundation and Entergy, Heflin said.
Baton Rouge Green will operate the NeighborWoods Program in conjunction with a project sponsored by the Center for Planning Excellence and the Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance aimed at building affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. “We want to see that every one of those houses has a tree,” Heflin said, “because an important component in a healthy neighborhood is healthy trees.”
In addition to the new program, and in honor of the organization’s approaching 20th anniversary next year, Baton Rouge Green is rededicating itself to one of its first programs and renaming it Living Roadways. Since 1987, Baton Rouge Green has planted nearly 5,000 trees at 23 roadside sites in East Baton Rouge Parish and one in West Baton Rouge. The organization recently completed its first tree inventory and is actively seeking sponsors to help provide regular care for the trees.
During a recent interview in her office, Heflin opened a three-ring binder filled with maps, pictures, and lists documenting the location and description of every Baton Rouge Green sponsored tree. “For the first time in our 20 years, we know how many trees we’re managing,” she said. The exact number is 4,830 trees representing 37 species. “Our goal is to get a sponsor at every site and to raise the standard of care for every tree – for all those 4,830 trees,” she said. For their investment, sponsors get a 4-foot by 4-foot sign and the knowledge that they are helping the environment.
For the full article, visit The Advocate.
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