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Bicyclists travel across S La. to plant oaks

Touristclick Louisiana Travel News

Bicyclists travel across S La. to plant oaks


HOUMA, La. -- Bicyclists rode 250 miles through south Louisiana's swamps and forests to plant a hundred live oak saplings around town. They had planted more than 1,200 along the way. And they, or others from Acorns of Hope, will be back.

Acorns of Hope, started by Church Point tree farmer Bob Thibodeaux, is an ambitious plan to restore 10,000 oaks over five years along a coastline devastated by decades of erosion and subsidence even before Hurricane Rita hit in 2005. Their route took them from Lake Charles to Houma."We took about 1,400 to 1,600 trees with us, and we stopped at every refuge, prairie and park along the way to plant them," said Joe Domovich, an arborist with Bob's Tree Preservation, which breeds and cares for trees from "the cradle to the grave."In Houma, they planted oaks at the Main Library and the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, where the Bayou Civitan Club provided lunch, and in grand Bois Park near the Lafourche Parish line, where they planted rows of saplings to recreate an oak chenier, or grove.Domovich said it was important to plant them close together in a natural formation like a chenier because as the trees grow they'll depend on one another for stability and cross pollination. They also will better stop wind and hold soil together to prevent further coastal erosion, he said.Thibodeaux started Acorns of Hope after realizing how many coastal forests were lost to Rita.Oaks will produce an abundance of acorns in an effort to repopulate after a traumatic event like a storm, Domovich said. "It's God's signal to us to restore what was lost," Domovich said.Greg Hill, a cyclist from Milton, Ontario, said that he knew he'd be along for the trip as soon as he heard about Acorns of Hope."Mr. Bob said he was going to do this alone, and we were so impressed," Hill said.Thibodeaux e-mailed the riders from Tour des Trees, a bicycle ride in California dedicated to raising awareness about trees and their care, and the riders agreed to join the effort.Hill said that when he learned that the coastline is steadily eroding as trees are lost, he knew it was important to educate people in south Louisiana on about replanting and caring for trees in their communities.The landscape and people in Louisiana have been inspiring, he added."It's phenomenal down here. I've never seen oaks like this; they're hundreds of years old," he said.He added that many people offered lodging to the riders for next year's ride _ "more than we could even take up."Fresh off the road, Hill still wore his bicycling gear as he helped several dozen students with the Terrebonne Junior 4-H Club dig into the soil to plant oak seedlings."We're losing land in coastal Louisiana," said Jeanne-Morgan Gernon, 14, a student at Montegut Middle School and vice president of the Junior 4-H Club. "We're losing our home. I wanted to do something."Hill and the other riders showed the budding arborists how to prepare the ground and break up the large chunks of clay soil by hand before planting the trees in the ground."These kids are top notch," said Tim Womick, a performer and educator from North Carolina who rode along with the crew. "We're graduating some modern Johnny Appleseeds here."Volunteers hope to plant about 2,000 trees a year, as well as checking the progress of their plantings, with GPS readings, Hill said.The trees must watered and mulched regularly to thrive, Domovich said."It will be up to the local people to be stewards," said Hill.To help the Acorns of Hope goal, Domovich said that Bob's Tree Preservation is offering trees to any local schools who want to host plantings and educational sessions about trees.

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