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With a canoe in tow, Rotarians plant smooth cordgrass along the coastline.

Rotary District project seeks to help restore Louisiana’s coastline

Local Rotarians aid Abbeville Club in planting marsh grass

LOUISIANA COAST - Some members of the Rotary Club of Crowley participated recently in a project to replant marsh grass along the Louisiana coastline.
The “Marsh Grass Planting Project” was hosted by the Rotary Club of Abbeville and included members from throughout District 6200, which encompasses most of the Louisiana coast.
Representing the Rotary Club of Crowley for the project were Gene and Janet Williams and Scott Schumacker.
Rotary International’s theme this year is “Make a Difference” and, relative to that theme, R.I. President Ian Riseley has asked every Rotarian in the world — all 2.4 million of them — to plant a tree to stress the need for environmental responsibility and stewardship.
Here in Louisiana, the coastal wetlands are being lost from both natural and anthropogenic forces. On average, the state loses a football field of marsh every hour.
So Rotarians in District 6200 decided to make a difference by planting marsh grass to create about 6 acres — or 4.5 football fields — of vegetated marsh.
The object was to plant 20,000 plug of smooth cordgrass which will grow to create approximately 6 acres of vegetated wetland in the shape of the Rotary Wheel.
The grass plugs were planted 1 foot apart in the shape of the Rotary Wheel.
Crews of Rotarians gathered clumps of smooth cordgrass from a nursery area located about a mile away. The slumps were separated into plugs with three to four stems per plug.
At the planting site, the plugs were pushed into the mud to anchor them firmly in place with the hopes that, over the next few months, new roots will further anchor the plants and begin to spread.
By the summer of 2019, the plugs will have spread to create a dense stand of grass.
The Rotary Wheel would be obvious from an altitude of 20,000 feet.
For the actual planting, crews met at the Intracoastal City Public Boat Ramp where members checked in and were given directions and instructions.
The planting site is 2.3 miles form the boat ramp.
The nursery site was planted over the past eight years by groups of students. The clumps of grass are 10 to 30 feet in diameter, growing in 6 to 12 inches of water. Harvesting required reaching into the mud to dislodge clumps of grass.
Once the canoe was full of grass, it was towed to the planting site. With three people pulling and one person placing the clumps in the canoe, each canoe was filled in 30 to 40 minutes.
For the planting, the Rotary Wheel was outlined with bamboo stakes. One person was instructed to hold the canoe and move along as the other three crew members planted.
While this all sounds simple enough, crew members were given some very explicit instructions. For example, it was strongly recommended that each crew member wear old tennis shoes (preferably high-tops) “as there may be clam shells or sticks with barnacles in the mud.” Aquasocks, sandals, Crocs and other “fashionable” footwear, they were told, would “immediately get stuck and lost in the mud (and) bare feet will likely get scratched and the crabs may eat your toes.”
Also, when pulling or planting marsh grass in shallow water, participants were told it is best not to stand up.
“Besides losing your shoes,” they were told, “you will create a large hole while trying to get unstuck. You can easily crawl/slide on your belly to move.”
The project was staged on May 5, and, from all reports, was a success. Now all that is needed is for the newly planted marsh grass to take root and grow.

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