"We're watching [the construction], but we're very pleased with the cooperation of the university," says local wetland ecologist John Foret.
Foret says he's working with the university to ensure the trees survive the $6.3 million construction project. "When the university let us know about the project, they gave us every assurance the trees would be protected. That was coming from [UL President Ray] Authement," Foret says. "They allowed us to weigh in with some suggestions," adds Foret, who requested mulch be added to the grounds to protect the tree roots. "What you're trying to avoid is compaction of the soil, which ultimately affects the roots," notes Foret, who works for the National Marine Fisheries Service located on UL's Research Park property.
But it's the trimming of big branches from the trees that's creating an unsightly view for passersby and raising the ire of local residents. On Oct. 5, Douglas English refused to leave the site until he got assurance that qualified personnel from the university were overseeing the trimming. English was threatened with arrest for trespassing when he stopped construction by walking underneath the tree until the university's physical plant director, Bill Crist, showed up.
"I live in the area, so I was concerned," English says. "I moved to that area because of the university, because of its beauty."
Crist assured English that John Broderick, who manages the university's grounds, was overseeing the work ' though Broderick was not at the site that day. "The trees are being trimmed under the supervision of probably the top arborist in the state," Crist tells The Independent Weekly, noting that eight live oaks are in the immediate vicinity of the project, with only two requiring significant cuts.
"They are cutting them severely, no question about it," says Lafayette landscape architect Rusty Ruckstuhl, a member of TreesAcadiana, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees and preserving historic trees and green spaces. But the trimming will not damage the trees, according to Ruckstuhl. "I can tell you 100 percent they're not going to kill these trees." Ruckstuhl also points out that once the garage is constructed, the sides of the trees that have been cut will likely be completely hidden by the structure.
Ruckstuhl, however, was surprised that the oaks had not yet been fenced off to protect them from construction equipment and debris. "What concerns me is there is no protection for the trees," says Ruckstuhl, who visited the site Oct. 6 and immediately called Broderick about the lack of a protective barrier.
Crist last week said construction equipment showed up sooner than expected, offsetting the time line for erecting the fencing. "There is some temporary fencing, [but] more permanent fencing will be up," he says.
John Foret's father, Dr. J.A. Foret Sr., and his students planted the live oaks, which line the entire block, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute President Edwin Lewis Stephens' similar planting of 18 live oaks on the university's campus.
Today, Stephens' trees are now breathtaking century oaks that shade the campus and create beautiful canopies over its streets. Stephens was the first president of SLII, now UL Lafayette, serving from 1900 to 1938.
A former dean of agriculture at UL, J.A. Foret Sr. died in 2000, and two years later the university where he worked for 32 years formally dedicated the trees in his memory, naming them the "Foret Oaks." In desperate need of parking, the university that same year proposed a student-funded parking garage in the green space that was being used as a practice field for the university's band. Students voted to pay an extra $25 per fall and spring semester to generate funding, and the building was designed so that the band will still have a small area for its practices.
UL's Crist says he can relate to the Foret family's and the community's concerns ' and he also understands English's urgency because of the historic oak needlessly cut down several years ago in the wee hours of the night for an auto parts store at four corners. "It's the kind of thing that when it's gone, it's gone," Crist says.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.