Meraux Foundation Partners on Coastal Planting Project

Black Mangrove Propagules Collected to Be Planted on Barrier Islands

The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation partnered with St. Bernard Parish Government’s Office of Coastal Operations and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry last week to collect Black Mangrove propagules that will be raised into trees and planted on barrier islands in Biloxi Marsh.

“The people of St. Bernard Parish know the importance of protecting our coast, and we were thrilled to join with so many committed, hard-working partners on this project,” said Chris Haines, a board member of the Meraux Foundation who helped collect the Black Mangrove propagules.

Some 1,500 propagules, which are like seeds, were collected on Wednesday by a small volunteer group that included Haines; John Lane, the Parish’s executive director of coastal affairs; coastal consultants Jerry Graves and George Ricks; Blaise Pezold and Courtney Nelson, who make up the Southeast Division of the Coastal Revegetation Program of the Louisiana Department of Forestry and Agriculture; and Dr. Jonathan Willis, a research scientist with the Institute for Coastal and Water Resources at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The group, along with Meraux Foundation board member Bill Haines, partnered with Chalmette High School students to pot the propagules. The students will care for the plants in the school’s green house for 18 months, when they will be ready to be planted on islands near where they were collected.

Pezold said, “This type of planting is important because the trees provide a line of defense against storm surge. Essentially, it’s a speed bump that slows down and lowers sea water as it rushes towards our communities during a storm event.”

The Black Mangrove program is part of the Parish’s Coastal Master Plan, which Parish government developed to dovetail with the State’s Coastal Master Plan.

“The Black Mangrove planting program is one of the more inexpensive and easy ones to execute as opposed to the complicated ones that require design and engineering. This project just took some partnerships and volunteers,” Graves said.

For less than $1,000 the Parish was able to cover the costs of soil, pots, and supplies for this week’s project; and the Coastal Division has applied for a grant to fund the program for three full years.

The environment is a key focus of the Meraux Foundation’s programming, which includes plantings, coalition building, and education programs.

Earlier in the week, the Meraux Foundation hosted an event at Docville Farm where the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority provided an update on the State’s Coastal Master Plan and received valuable input and feedback from the community.

Docville Farm is the Meraux Foundation’s headquarters, where it hosts community events and educational programs. There, the Meraux Foundation is sprouting 25 of the Black Mangrove propagules and making a time lapse video to add to its educational resources.

“Together with the Meraux Foundation, we’ve planted tens of thousands of trees along the St. Bernard Parish coast. The Meraux Foundation has provided boats, resources, trucks and trailers for the plantings; and they even funded a nursery,” said Pezold. “The Meraux Foundation has been great in everything I’ve ever done with them. Chris and Bill are always leading the charge out in the field. Any idea I’ve come to them with, they say, ‘yes.’”

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