Offering eight types of trees, including Japanese Magnolias, Red Maples and even Cypress trees, all that was left after a half-hour were a handful of Natchez Crepe Myrtles. More events are scheduled for Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes next month and for Jefferson in January.
The group, led by Connie Uddo, secured a grant from the Apache Corporation and is partnered with the National Football League as part of its Super Bowl Environmental Projects. In doing so, Hike for KaTREEna expects to break Dallas' record of planting 5,000 trees two years ago by offering 7,000 by Feb. 2, the day before the NFC and AFC champions face off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While Uddo expected to be able to give its allotted trees away Saturday, she didn't expect them to be all gone so soon.
"I am totally amazed by this kind of turnout," she said. "What makes you feel so great about this is that it's wonderful that people want these trees. I think after Katrina, people were afraid of trees. As an organization, we've actually had a hard time planting some of New Orleans neighborhoods. When you get a turnout like this, I feel as if people are coming around and see the importance of trees."
"We need these trees for so many reasons," Uddo said. "We need them for shade, they beautify the neighborhood, and trees are symbolic for restoration and healing."
And St. Tammany Parish residents were grateful Saturday morning, with some showing up to 45 minutes before the event's planned 9 a.m. start. By 9:30, there wasn't much left.
"My daughter-in-law went to this tree giveaway in New Orleans last month, and she called to remind me about it because she knew I thought it was great," said Vernessa Bradford of Slidell. "I got a white crepe myrtle because unfortunately that's all they had left. I did not expect it to be this popular. I love this. I have always wanted more trees, and this is a great way to make that happen."
For more information and specific dates of upcoming events for Hike for KaTREEna, visit http://hikeforkatreena.com.