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The LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens are helping repair natural disaster damage — and having a little fun, too.

Arbor Day at Burden is set to take place Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the AgCenter Botanic Gardens. This event will be both a lively celebration of nature and a way for locals to give back to the community around them, a community that still bears the scars of natural disaster over a decade later.

In summer 2008, Hurricane Gustav laid waste to Louisiana’s coast. It made landfall in Cocodrie, Louisiana, then blew directly north through Baton Rouge as it made its way up the U.S. Along with flooded homes and fallen power lines, the natural landscape itself took a hit, and Louisiana lost a significant amount of its native tree cover.

Since then, invasive species have found their way into what once were naturally wooded areas. After clearing out this non-native wildlife, the AgCenter is offering the Baton Rouge community the chance to plant their very own tree.

On Jan. 19, the AgCenter Botanic Gardens will host their 10th annual Arbor Day at Burden event. Along with tree planting, activities will include an educational visit from Smokey the Bear, a tree sale, coloring, crafts, tree climbing and timbersports demonstrations. Admission is free and open to everyone.

Events Coordinator Katie Guitreau encourages families to come out and experience both what nature and the local community have to offer.

“It’s really fun for the kids to get out from in front of their screens and really get their hands dirty,” Guitreau said. “They love it, and you realize that kids really enjoy being outside when you see an event like this.”

Kids between the ages of 3 and 8 also have the chance to enjoy StoryTime in the Garden, a book reading supported in part by the Junior League of Baton Rouge. Arbor Day readings and activities will start every half hour from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For slightly older children, the Kiddie Tree Climb is an opportunity to show off their adventurous spirit and learn what it’s like to be a real arborist. Kids will hook up to a harness and learn to scale a tree the way the pros do it, learning more about trees and gaining a new perspective along the way.

Along with providing a fun day in nature for families, planting a tree can carry great symbolic significance for anyone, regardless of their age.

Many of the trees planted through this event have a meaning, from the memorial of a loved one to the celebration of the birth of a baby. Along with the experience of doing your part to restore the state’s wildlife, you will receive a GPS coordinate for your tree, allowing you to visit and watch it grow for years to come.

All of the activities at the event are totally free, and there will be concessions available for purchase. The event will also include a tree sale, which is a popular request in previous years. After a day of fun, families can now take home and plant their own sapling, only furthering the positive impact on the environment.

“It’s a way for the community to invest in our facility not financially, but physically,” Guitreau said. “It’s a really good way to give back.”

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