Silver lining for Silverleaf: Tree planting will help flood plain grow

Sonya T. Gordon

At a tree planting ceremony at the Silverleaf neighborhood Monday, officials and former residents gathered to mark a more positive future for the flood-prone area.

Former resident Ann Joseph helps plant trees at the Silverleaf area, which she previously had called home for 22 years.

The former residents and several government officials used gold-painted shovels to till the land and plant the last six trees to mark the completion of a project to return the area to a natural wetland. All in all, about 3,000 native state trees were planted along East Silverleaf Street in Gonzales.

Developed in the 1980s, the neighborhood of Silverleaf abutted the wetlands. Flooding in 2016, however, showed nature can take over the property in just a few hours. Federal buyouts were given to some 33 property owners after the flooding. They moved on to other neighborhoods they now call their homes.

In 2020, the city marked the beginning of a fresh start with the removal and demolition of homes and the removal of roads and utilities -- clearing the way for 600 native Louisiana trees to be planted and the 11 acres of rich soil and properties being given back to nature. Under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, the United State Department of Agriculture helped with government purchases of homes and partnered with the city and the Louisiana Office of Community Development.

Most said they were happy to see some “good” come to the neighborhood after all the loss flooding caused them repeatedly. 

Ann Joseph, who had called Silverleaf home for 22 years, represented former residents along with Gonzales City Mayor Barney Arceneaux. Congressman Garrett Graves, the Agency program assistant state conservationist, Tim Landreneau; Louisiana Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes; and other notable elected officials joined CPEX and other firms involved to make note of the project completion.

The state hopes to expand the program in seven communities across Louisiana. That might include an area near Centerville Street and River Road in Denham Springs. Congress granted $275 million to expand the program nationally, and Louisiana is one of the states qualifying for the program. Projects like this ensure construction can never occur again on the parcels of land.