The latest oak under fire is an approximately 150-year-old live oak in the way of a new roundabout in Youngsville. While several groups, including Trees Acadiana and the Sierra Club, have been working to save the venerable tree from the ax, the realignment of the intersection of Hwys. 92 and 89, currently a dog leg that involves several stop signs as vehicles weave their way through the heart of old Youngsville, will definitely aid traffic flow in the growing community.
Carmer Falgout, a Lafayette social worker, has led the charge to preserve the tree. “I don’t think people really see the oaks, they just take them for granted,” she says. Until they are cut down. Falgout had the experience of watching a 100-year-old tree removed by Tri-Parish Bank on South College, a tree she daily looked at out the window of her office for years. The experienced turned her into an activist, “It made me sick,” she says, and she began working with other groups to influence governments and individuals to revisit building plans to take the native urban forest into account, especially when old live oaks are involved.
There have been some egregious incidents over the past decade, when trees were destroyed unnecessarily. The Four Corners Oak comes to mind, a mighty oak that once shaded Toby’s Little Lodge at the intersection of North University and Cameron. Advanced Auto Parts, which built on the lot, chainsawed the tree in the middle of the night because there was so much opposition to its removal. The company later planted three young live oaks in the vicinity of the Four Corners Oak. There was no reason for the destruction of the oak, and it will be a century before those saplings come into their own.
UL has recently cut several live oaks, some 50-100 years old, as part of the master plan to build new dorms on campus. Student outcry (see the Ind’s story Paving Paradise) led to some redesign on the part of the administration and architects, which will potentially save three of the six condemned trees.
In the case of the Youngsville tree, which is not a named registered member of the Live Oak Society, the highway project has been on the books for eight years. It’s a two-fold state highway project, to realign La. 92 to cleanly intersect La. 89 at a new traffic roundabout. Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator says he and the council have been trying to save the tree, “its an asset to the town,” but they haven’t been able to figure out how.
Youngsville has been booming of late, with the development of Sugar Mill Pond and other subdivisions, as well as the completion of Ambassador Caffery South. The road in particular obviates the need to wind through the country and gives motorists a straight shot from Lafayette’s south side to access Bonin Road and the Youngsville Highway, (La. 89), both roads that lead into Youngsville. With the easy access comes more development, and commerce, says Youngsville Chief Economic Officer Rick Garner, is a priority.
“We’re not in the tree killing business but we have to do what is best for Youngsville in the long run,” says Garner. “We’re losing a beautiful tree, but the economics of the city are going to be enhanced greatly. Commerce is going to be greater. It doesn’t matter how many businesses you open, if you can’t get people in your driveway, you haven’t done much. These traffic problems have to get resolved so that customers can get to these merchants.”
The Youngsville council met last night, and agreed that if the environmental organizations can raise the money, they will allow the tree to be moved to safety. “I feel we’ve done everything to date to save the tree, and we haven’t figured it out,” says Viator. While the contracts for the road work have been let, and Viator plans to accept the low bid, he has 45 days before he has to issue an order to proceed. “We’ll work with the groups to try to move the tree, if they can come up with the money,” he says. “We’re going to put in a nice roundabout, with landscaping. If we could keep the tree, it would be a big asset. This is where the city originated. We just haven’t come up with an idea of how to save it.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.