Christmas Wreaths to Be Used for Coastal Restoration Project

NEW ORLEANS (press release) — The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, which in the 1980s helped create the Christmas tree recycling projects that are now common across south Louisiana communities, is planning to deposit discarded Christmas wreaths into the water in Plaquemines Parish next year, taking a product that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills and using it instead to encourage sediment accumulation around Quarantine Bay.

The nonprofit’s partner in the project is the Francois de Lery Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. That organization is contributing more than 1,300 wreaths from Chalmette National Cemetery. They will be placed on veterans’ graves at the cemetery Dec. 16 as part of Wreaths Across America, then picked up, stacked and bagged on Jan. 13.

From there, the reefs will be transported to CRCL’s Restoration Headquarters in Violet. University of New Orleans professor Maddie Foster-Martinez is working with her students to design and implement a project in which the wreaths will likely be strung on a rope or cable and anchored in Quarantine Bay, in the Neptune Pass outfall area. The intent is to slow down the water so that sediment settles and land builds more quickly in one of the few parts of southeast Louisiana where the Mississippi River is connected to adjacent wetlands.

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The wreaths were grown without the use of pesticides, and no trees were cut down to produce the wreaths.

The idea for the project came from Gayle T. Farrell, an officer in the Francois de Lery Chapter who has volunteered with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Wreaths Across America places wreaths on the graves of millions of veterans at more than 4,000 locations around the world. 

“CRCL is pleased to give these wreaths new life to encourage land-building at Quarantine Bay,” said Michael Biros, restoration programs director at the organization. “We’re grateful to the Francois de Lery Daughters of the American Revolution chapter for coming up with this concept and to the University of New Orleans for working with us to make it a reality.”

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CRCL, which was founded in 1988, helped shape the Christmas tree recycling programs in which trees are deposited into marshes to help accrete sediment and slow erosion. The Louisiana programs began at a time when other places around the country began turning discarded trees into mulch. Tree recycling remains popular in south Louisiana.

About 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands in Louisiana have vanished since the 1930s.

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