Jefferson Parish (Louisiana) is approximately 100 miles long north to south, stretching from Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, and is divided diagonally by the Mississippi River. Friends of Jefferson the Beautiful is the unique organization within the parish that painstakingly applies its assets and energies to the entirety of the parish. With the stipulation stated in its bylaws, exactly half of the board of directors is elected from each side of the Mississippi River. Chartered by Jefferson Parish, Friends of Jefferson the Beautiful annually renews a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the parish government by which the organization pledges “…to raise funds, increase community awareness, and engage in other activities to preserve and promote landscaping on public property…” On August 26, 2004, FJB dedicated a $ 25,000 massive planting of trees along a public street.
In 2001, FJB developed an Annual Tree School which provided heretofore-difficult-to-obtain information to home builders and home owners alike on how best to protect the urban forestry canopy during housing development. Packaged into a single day, free to the general public, and with lunch provided, the four tree schools have averaged an attendance of approximately 300 persons each. In 2002, the National Arbor Day Foundation awarded its national Education Award to the FJB Tree School Program. In 2003, the Louisiana Urban Forestry Council awarded its President’s Award to the FJB Tree School Program. FJB is currently planning the Fifth Annual Tree School for Spring 2005.
In 2003, FJB developed a curriculum for a Citizen Forester Program which accepted volunteers from the community into an eight-week training program designed to teach them the various elements of urban forestry preservation and restoration, the rules and regulations of the governing bodies, and the methods by which threats to the arboreal environment could be addressed. In a fall class (2003) and a spring class (2004), FJB has now graduated 92 “Tree Troopers” —each fully motivated and armed with the knowledge and abilities to make an impact on his or her community. The FJB Citizen Forester Program was awarded to 2004 Louisiana Urban Forestry Council’s Education Award.
Beginning in 2002, FJB initiated an annual (now progressed to quarterly) educational forum (“Planter’s Lunch” — from the FJB logo “Plant the Parish”) which is open to the public and again provides a free lunch to the attendees. The purpose of this meeting is to bring relevant updates to the various publics with which the organization interacts and to provide educational presentations on issues of interest to those publics, typically dealing with conversation and restoration of the urban forest. Average attendance at these gathering is about 50 people.
On October 6, 2004, the Educational Chairman of FJB (Ms. Carey Hammett) and Mr. Tom Campbell (Louisiana Department of Forestry) who has partnered with FJB in all of its urban forestry programs were invited by the National Arbor Day Foundation to present “Urban Forestry Preservation, New Orleans Style” to a national conference. This presentation personifies FJB impact at the local, state, and now national levels.