"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.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.