Picking Up in the River Parishes
Local communities near the Port District lent a helping hand earlier this spring to beautify the region during the statewide ‘Love The Boot’ Week.
As enchanting as it is unique, Louisiana’s topography shapes this state’s identity and sustains our way of life.
From the wetlands hugging the coastline, to the Cajun prairies, and of course the winding Mississippi River stretching from the northern border down through Baton Rouge and New Orleans until it deposits at the toe of the boot in Plaquemines; these geographical features bolster numerous vital industries and dozens of leisure activities.
To help ensure this state’s natural wonders continues to serve generations of Louisianians for decades and centuries to come, organizers from Keep Louisiana Beautiful – an environmental research and advocacy group – promoted its annual ‘Love The Boot’ Week from April 17-23 to coincide with Earth Day. The 7-day initiative has been Louisiana’s largest litter removal event since its inception. This year, more than 500 trash pick-up and beautification activities were organized in all 64 Louisiana parishes – including well-attended gatherings in the River Parishes surrounding the Port of South Louisiana.
In St. John Parish, for instance, community leaders held the area’s annual Shred Day in concert with Love The Boot Week. The event was held at two locations – the REGALA parking lot in Reserve, and the Juan Anthony Joseph Park in Edgard – on April 22 and allowed parish residents to safely and confidentially shred and discard old or outdated medical records, bank statements, tax returns, receipts, credit card applications, or any other sensitive documents that cause clutter. It’s estimated nearly 7,000 pounds of paper was shredded.
On that same day, teams of volunteers participated in St. John’s ‘Team Up To Clean Up’ effort to remove debris and other materials from ditches and drains on and near their property to reduce flooding.
“We were happy to partner with Keep Louisiana Beautiful to host one of the most successful clean up events in St. John Parish,” Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said. “Thank you to the 400-plus volunteers who joined us during ‘Love The Boot Week’ to show our commitment in keeping our community clean.”
In St. Charles Parish, local civic leaders and volunteers staged the 15th annual Trash Bash, a cleanup effort that concluded at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center. Attracting helpers from groups such as elementary, middle, and high schools, various industries and family businesses, and social clubs, nearly 1,000 total volunteers picked up close to 350 bags of litter and 25 bags of recyclable materials – the event’s largest haul since it began in 2009. Collectively, volunteers worked 1,170 hours to beautify the region.
“We aligned Trash Bash to coincide with Keep Louisiana Beautiful’s Love the Boot Week this year to emphasize our mission of keeping our communities clean and free of litter,” Parish President Matthew Jewell said in a press release. “We nearly doubled our participation from last year’s event, and I want to thank everyone who came out to volunteer, from our residents to our industrial partners. Our residents always come out to help and make our community a better place, which really makes St. Charles Parish a special place.”
That same day – Earth Day, April 22 – the Keep St. James Parish Beautiful board hosted its annual Parish-Wide Cleanup Day. To accommodate willing volunteers on each side of the river, the event featured two staging locations – Lutcher Park on the East Bank and Vacherie Health Unit on the West Bank. Starting at 8 a.m. and extending to lunch, volunteers were outfitted in gloves and safety vests, and given trash bags to gather and remove litter and other items from roadsides near the Bonnet Carre Spillway, parks, schools, and other shared civic spaces.
According to the board, the mission of the annual Trash Bash is “to promote a parish that is safe, environmentally conscious, and provides cultural aesthetic enjoyments through cleanup and beautification projects spearheaded by community volunteers.”
Volunteers who joined post-cleanup festivities at the Dufresne Community Center were treated to a free lunch sponsored by Nucor and opportunities to win raffle prizes.
“Over the past few years, we have watched this event grow significantly. Every year we pick up over 100 bags of litter, which helps to keep our parish looking its best” Keep St. James Beautiful board chairman Ken Guidry told L’Observateur. “By working together, we can make a significant difference in our community and ensure that it remains a beautiful place to live and work.”
Beyond erasing obvious eyesores from sight, removing litter lowers death rates among indigenous wildlife, strengthens flood protection by eliminating items known to clog drainage systems, and aids economic development, particularly tourism.
In early May 2023, Keep Louisiana Beautiful released its statewide impact report from Love The Boot Week.
In total, litter pick-up events across the state attracted 12,777 volunteers who combined collected and removed 313 tons of garbage and 135 pounds in recyclable plastic bottles and aluminum cans. In addition to those reactive beautification efforts, groups also partook in a handful of proactive beautification efforts as well. Volunteers planted 370 new trees, more than 3,000 new plants and refurbished 146 existing gardens. Using the Independent Sector Rate, Love The Boot Week activities accounted for $1.68 in volunteer value throughout Louisiana.
“We are thankful to the Louisiana businesses, governments, schools, families, and individuals who participated in Love the Boot Week,” said Susan Russell, Executive Director of Keep Louisiana Beautiful. “This event not only helps to improve communities, but it also brings awareness to our state’s litter problem. Only when we work together and change our behaviors will Louisiana see a reduction in litter.”