Each year the AHS agriculture teacher, Shane Theall, takes a group of students to the small island to put hundreds of land-preserving plants into the ground.
Isolated from the rest of Vermilion Parish by marsh, Cheniere au Tigre (usually pronounced ‘shen-yuh tig’) is a part of history that Theall doesn’t want to see end.
“We’re lucky enough to be granted access to this beautiful, natural place,” says Theall, “and even luckier to be able to do something to help sustain it.”
The island is only reachable by boat, and only by members of the families that own the land there.
This year’s trip brought eighteen students and several community volunteers – mostly members of the families who first settled Cheniere au Tigre – to the island.
Students were fortunate to hear stories from Nora Lynch, who spent much of her childhood on the cheniere. Lynch brought the ghost town of Cheniere au Tigre back alive for a few moments under the massive old oaks.
In 2010, before she passed away, Nora’s mother Zoe Sagrera Lynch – born and raised on Cheniere au Tigre – published the book My Memories of Cheniere au Tigre. A thriving island community, however small and insular, is depicted in the book. There was a chapel, and a school, and a hotel which was reportedly a popular spot for wealthier pleasure-seekers during the early 20th century.
Today the only remnants of the once-lively community reside in the cemetery, hidden amongst the trees and overgrown. Lumber from the old buildings that were destroyed, from storms Audrey to Rita, have been reused to build camps by various families.
Among the cheniere’s landowners and conservationists are Mia Broussard, Rodney Sagrera, and Gwen Broussard, who lend a hand with the planting every year and facilitate the excursion. Timmy Vincent, Audubon sanctuary manager and unofficial “gatekeeper” to the cheniere, always joins in. Kevin Sagrera and Theall’s own father, Jim, also made the trip this year.
About 1,000 sprouts of marsh grass were planted last month – grass Theall says has been proven to preserve land and even create new land.
“The roots help hold the land together,” explains Theall, “and the tall shoots of grass catch wayward bits of sand and dirt flying in the wind, which falls at the grass line and builds up the land.
“It’s a simple but effective way – nature’s way, really – to preserve the coast.”
While on-site, Theall and crew observed plantings done in previous years and were pleased with what they saw.
Theall’s conclusion: “The work we’ve done the past three years is visible, and the kids know they’re doing something important.
(Story written by Brooke Broussard, Correspondent