This week in awesome: Ginger Rabalais

by Walter Pierce

The Youngsville resident offers use of her property to save the city's majestic live oak. The Youngsville City Council voted Thursday to allow the so-called Heritage Oak - a 250-year-old live oak in the way of "progress" - to stand, accepting a generous offer from resident Ginger Rabalais to use her property for a temporary bypass road that will allow crews to straighten La. 92 leading into town. The bypass will come within five feet of Rabalais' front door.

The oak, which stands in Councilman A.J. Bernard's yard, was slated to be felled later this month to make way for the bypass. When news of the tree's impending demise spread, a consortium of tree lovers organized a campaign to save the tree, including Acadiana artist George Rodrigue, who painted the tree in his iconic style and sold prints to raise money for relocation of the tree. The relocation proved to be unnecessary, thanks in large part to Rabalais.

"This is an important part of our city's history," Rabalais told The Daily Advertiser after the council's vote Thursday night. "It deserves to be saved."

Trees Acadiana agreed at the Thursday meeting to provide a $200,000 surety bond, which will be used to restore Rabalais' property after the five-month, $5 million construction project is complete.

Trees Acadiana's Sarah Schoeffler announced the victory in an email to supporters: "We have felt the issue of the Youngsville Oak has been more than just one tree, that our public officials, engineers, developers, etc. will take into consideration the beauty our oaks have graced our land with for hundreds of  years. They were here to welcome all of us into South Louisiana. These wonderful trees have cleaned our air, held our land firm and homes protected during storms, they slow down flood run off, provide the cooling effects from the shade, habitat for birds and squirrels and provide a place of solace for mankind. We hope our leaders will learn creative ways to design around them."

Trees Acadiana and Guardian of the Oaks, an offshoot group that sprang up specifically in defense of the Youngsville Heritage Oak, are urging supporters to continue to donate and purchase the Rodrigue print to help the groups pay back loans taken out to cover the cost of the surety bond.

And hopefully, as Youngsville residents rumble within feet of Ginger Rabalais' door on the temporary bypass, they'll give her a big thumbs up. Bravo, Ginger!