Urban landscaping brings Baton Rouge back to its roots
While the city has been expanding to make room for new businesses featuring upscale and modern design, Baton Rouge Green intends to “spruce up the place” in an entirely different manner.
Baton Rouge Green was initially founded in 1987 by members of the community who were troubled by the diminishing tree population. The city’s urban canopy has grown tremendously over the years due to their efforts, and the team alongside it. Today, there are fresh faces in charge: Robert Seemann, Sage Foley, and Christopher Cooper. Although each manages individual responsibilities, they are united in their immense passion for the great outdoors.
“The main objective remains quite simple, to get people to go out and touch and think about trees,” said Foley.
Known for their signature Living Roadways program, Baton Rouge Green hosts large plantings and currently manages 4,341 trees along roadsides, requiring ongoing care and maintenance. A newer program known as City Citrus, is driven by Cooper, targeting underutilized urban areas as planting sites for a variety of citrus trees. These trees are dual-purpose as they beautify the landscaping and also provide fruit to the community, recently harvesting 64 pounds of citrus. In addition, Baton Rouge Green can frequently be spotted conducting plantings at schools in the area, offering students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with plant species and common gardening tools.
Although Baton Rouge Green originated over thirty years ago, the team insists they are “not your grandma’s nonprofit,” and they are no stranger to branching out. Their most recent venture, the MyTree app, is a statewide interactive forestry program that will allow citizens to identify, measure and subsequently map trees straight from their smartphones. This allows for users to form a personal connection with specific trees in their own backyards and discover the advantages that those trees provide to the surrounding area.
As if there could be any more reason to support Mother Nature, Baton Rouge Green presents a compelling case for trees and their undeniable eco benefits, such as purifying air, reducing pollution, and environment sustainability. Trees are the “original green infrastructure” and with the recent flooding event, it is more vital than ever to protect urban forestry.
“Our trees prevent 11 million gallons of stormwater from hitting drains,” said Foley.
The team is working to educate members of the community on the impact that cutting trees down in favor of developments has on the greater whole. If one must be removed, it is our responsibility to “plant it forward” and nurture a new seed.
“Just because it’s an urban area, doesn’t mean it’s not an ecosystem. It’s a habitat we have to survive in,” said Seemann.
Several upcoming events are in the works to support the initiative. On October 6, from 8 a.m. to noon, Baton Rouge Green will be setting up shop at Clegg’s Nursery with a variety of hand-selected native species for sale. The annual fundraiser and awareness event, Green Up Red Stick, will be held on October 19 at the Main Library at Goodwood where Baton Rouge Green will be partnering with the Mid City Makers Market and featuring natural, eco-friendly products from local artists.
As self-proclaimed “tree nerds,” the Baton Rouge Green team is on a mission to keep community members conscious of their environment and to foster a sense of excitement about the outdoors.
“Nature is not over there. It’s outside your door. How can you help it function better with your choices?” Foley asked.
Perhaps it is time to be a city that bleeds purple, gold and all shades of green, one that grows from the ground up.
Photos by Kiet Tran