80 volunteers plant trees, hope for shade at BREC park

By Christine Morgan Arceneaux
Baton Rouge, LA (January 30, 2011)- Jamie Schette, 20, still remembers those hot summer days playing soccer at the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission’s Burbank Soccer Complex. “I’ve played here, and I always thought they needed trees,” the pre-med student said.

So, when she found out that trees would be planted in the park Saturday, Schette, along with about 80 volunteers – ranging from high school students to senior citizens – joined in planting close to 70 trees. The project, a joint effort of Baton Rouge Green, BREC and the Baton Rouge Soccer Association, was scheduled for January as part of “our Arbor Day planning,” Baton Rouge Green Executive Director Diane Losavio said. Baton Rouge Green and the state of Louisiana celebrate Arbor Day each year on the third Friday in January.
Baton Rouge Green says on its website that its mission is to lead, educate and inspire residents of Baton Rouge to conserve, plant and sustain the community’s trees. BREC Assistant Director of Planning and Engineering Dan Hebert said the types of trees planted Saturday – nuttall oaks, sycamores, bald cypresses, spruce pines and Chinese pistaches – were handpicked for the project for many reasons. “They’re large shade trees, they’re relatively fast growers and do well in the soil here,” Hebert said. “They are park trees.” As BREC Superintendent Bill Palmer watched the work in progress, he said the project, spearheaded by Baton Rouge High Magnet School senior Zack Kopplin, was necessary to enhance the park.
“Trees really create that park atmosphere,” Palmer said. “I think it’s one of the things we need here. We have a large amount of families and kids that come out here with no shade. In 10 to 15 years, they’ll be large enough and provide plenty of shade.” Kopplin first began working on the tree-planting project more than a year ago when he and his mother met Losavio for lunch. “It’s miserable out here in the summer,” Kopplin said Saturday while explaining his reasons for pushing the tree-planting project to completion. Kopplin, a former Baton Rouge Soccer Club member, said he’s spent many weekends playing soccer in the park. He said he hopes one day families will be able to watch their children’s soccer games from under shade trees.
“Independence Park has trees and it’s much, much nicer,” Kopplin said. “If we just had a few trees, it would make it cooler,” he said. Before seeing his dream realized, Kopplin learned a few grant-writing skills before his grant to the Pennington Family Foundation was approved. Kopplin said he then worked closely with BREC landscape architect Brett Wallace to map out a plan to place the trees throughout the park. “It’s kind of rewarding to be out here with all the volunteers and see the project come to fruition,” Wallace said.
Just 30 minutes after starting the tree-planting project, volunteers already had planted several trees in the front of the park and had relocated to other areas to continue planting. “I think you’ll notice a difference even in the spring,” Hebert said. Palmer said the 70 trees are just a start and that BREC is looking at Saturday’s tree-planting event as a “phase of planting.” “We really want to thank Zack Kopplin,” Palmer said. “This is his initiative. He organized it and got us all together. And for us, it benefits the park greatly.”
BREC has worked with Baton Rouge Green for years in keeping BREC parks “green,” Palmer said. In fact, Palmer said, the trees in Independence Park were planted in cooperation with Baton Rouge Green. “We’ve had an excellent relationship with Baton Rouge Green,” Palmer said.
Related Resources:
The Advocate- 80 volunteers plant trees, hope for shade at BREC park
Baton Rouge Green