"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 fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.