"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 circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."