Mary Tutwiler

Woodsman, spare that tree

by Mary Tutwiler

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.” Actually that would be Susan Hester Edmunds, who as a president of the New Iberia Optimist Club led the board to pass a resolution requesting the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to reconsider their plans to wack a 150 year old live oak in Iberia Parish. DOTD has been slowly transforming US 90 into I-49, building overpasses and service roads throughout St. Martin, Iberia and St. Mary Parishes. The centurion oak, a member of the Live Oak Society named Mr. Al, grows directly in the path of a projected service road near the intersection of Freyou Road and 90. Edmunds suggests that the service road could be rerouted to spare the oak.

DOTD District Administrator Bill Fontenot is not averse to saving trees. Actually, the DOTD plan dates back to the 1960s, and Fontenot says the department is looking at the specs to see if the tree can be preserved. However, he did cite the weary DODT party line that “trees too close to the roadway are a matter of concern,” meaning, I suppose, that they jump out in front of cars sometimes and cause wrecks. The service road project is slated for next year. Fontenot’s number is 262-6100, if you’d like to speak up for Mr. Al.

Meanwhile, a merry band of bicyclists, the Acorns for Hope brigade, is back on the road again this year, planting live oak seedlings along the coast. Last year, Church Point arborist Bob Thibodeaux led 20 members of the bicycling organization, Tour des Trees, on a five day ride from Lake Charles to Houma, planting about 2,000 sturdy live oak seedlings as they went. The five year plan is to plant 10,000 seedlings into the swath of Hurricane Rita, which killed a large portion of the state’s coastal forests. This year, the Acorns of Hope crew has grown to 35, and today they are in Opelousas, talking to kids at Creswell Elementary School about tree planting, then they’ll make a pilgrimage to the Jim Bowie Oak, across the square from the St. Landry Parish courthouse. Tomorrow morning, they head out from Lake Charles on their mission. The seedlings they plan to plant have all been sprouted from the acorns of historic oaks like the St. John Oak, the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, and the Jim Bowie Oak. Proven stock, Thibodeaux says of his seedlings, stands the test of time.