Good grief. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this latest horrible development. Evidently the City of New Orleans bears some responsibility for restoring Harrison Ave through City Park. Not only are they widening the road–to the detriment of the oaks–but they’ve specified that a path be cut, evidently for sidewalks. Even the construction crew was surprised at the technical specifications which called for them to bulldoze the path. Now the trees have had their roots severed and are destined to be compacted and be abused by suffocating additions, likely concrete.
Why is it that as we rebuild we are killing so much of what matters in this town? What the floods didn’t take, stupidity is.
I couldn’t post all the pictures here so I built a Posterous page with 27 pictures. You can find it here at http://dyingoaks.posterous.com
Who is responsible for this latest crime against our quality of life?
After sending a still-unanswered correspondence about how the new Great Lawn project was damaging one of the older trees in the park, I noticed that these signs went up. Doesn’t that make you feel better? No? I thought not.
I did learn that the park’s primary contractor for tree “care” has now written a prescription for the tree. So, after the destructive acts committed against this beautiful and iconic oak by the design team, management and the construction company, the park is suddenly looking after the health of the tree. Ah, irony is a bitter and repulsive dinner sometimes.
We are all excited that children in New Orleans soon will be walking the halls of beautiful new schools built to USGBC LEED standards. However, though the buildings may have been constructed to green standards, the actual green settings the schools sit within–the grounds, the trees, the soil–are being killed by the same old-style construction approach LEED for Schools attempts to change.
At Langston Hughes School on Trafalgar, a lone live oak was treated as the centerpiece by the Recovery School District design team. The physical structure was wrapped around the tree with the intent to create an iconic component of the campus.
Over the past month the contractors, Roy Anderson Corp of Gulfport, Mississippi, lost their way on the path to green and let heavy equipment gouge and compact the soil around the already-stressed tree, dooming it to die-off in the coming months.
Tens of thousands of dollars, possibly more, were spent accommodating that live oak. And, in the final weeks of construction, RAC–in a rush to complete on time–turned the Hughes site into a pig sty of mush.
This is not the only messy school site with problems of runoff and soil degradation. Greater Gentilly High and Holy Cross High on Paris Avenue near the Lakefront are also messy, muddy, soil-damaged sites.
There is a pattern of site mismanagement happening around New Orleans as we rebuild. Despite federal and state regulations requiring the filing of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), one of the first permits needed when developing sites of more than one acre, none of the RSD schools, or former housing project sites, appear to have such plans and permits in place. A SWPPP is a site management plan for preventing runoff from construction activities to enter nearby storm drains. This is why you see silt fences and other creative filtration systems on construction sites. The aim is to reduce pollution and to prevent the clogging of vital storm drains and reduce flooding.
EPA and DEQ have strongly enforced rules in other areas of the state; but, they gave New Orleans a break because of Katrina. However, as evidenced by the lack of site management all over town, it’s long past time for them to pay a visit.
What’s really sad is that the major construction firms doing the most damage are very familiar with SWPPP plans because they adhere to them everywhere else. But, because EPA and DEQ haven’t been demanding compliance, these firms are skirting the laws, resulting in muddy sites that are clogging storm drains and adding pollution to area drainage systems, many of which flow into Lake Pontchartrain.
After sending emails with pictures to representatives of organizations involved in the RSD rebuilding, I’ve received no response and see no evidence of improvements. Thus, I again post pictures and words that I’d rather not. And after such a glowing story in last week’s paper, I am compelled to note that the Times-Picayune reporter evidently was blinded by the green glitz and didn’t see the green being killed under his feet.
Special note: I want to apologize if this post ruffles feathers. I admit that I am frustrated. I feel like I’m watching a loved one being assaulted and I’m supposed to be diplomatic and say, “please stop hitting her.” I pray that I find the inner-peace, wisdom and tact to evolve into a more effective and less-pointed advocate for a better world. For now, however, this is what I’ve thrown out there to try to find “light in the darkness of insanity” to quote Nick Lowe. I only want the best for City Park and our precious Louisiana. SP
Here are the gory details:
Well paid City Park designers, contractors and staffers continue to abuse and kill the precious live oaks under their stewardship. The Great Lawn project, part of the park’s Master Plan, is currently under construction. Just as with the Pavillion of the Two Sisters, a project that killed nearly a half dozen trees with at least one still barely holding on; and, with the loss of trees in the Sculpture Garden ongoing, all due to bad planning and implementation that failed to properly protect the soil and delicate root systems of the trees, the park is in trouble.
As I said in a previous post, City Park is being paved over. Already, an acre has been slathered with a suffocating coat of toxic asphalt. The Master Plan calls for many more acres to be encased in life-starving, impermeable concrete and asphalt because too many people in charge don’t know readily available procedures for Best Management Practices for a public park.
As I’ve noted, New Orleans City Park should be the green heart of the area. It should be the leader in sustainability and green principles to which we all turn to learn about and witness how humans properly manage the natural spaces our parks represent. After witnessing the construction of the Big Lake project and it’s poor choice in materials, tree selection and placement, and water management strategies–which connect to all these issues–I believe the park is in the hands of people who are reshaping it in ways that reflect the mindset of a bygone and downright ignorant time.
Here’s a letter I sent today to several people involved in the operations and oversight of City Park:
I am writing to urge you to act swiftly to prevent further damage to live oaks in the park; and, to add appropriate arborists and local green/sustainable design experts to the paid teams developing and implementing the park’s Master Plan.
Apparently, the overall planner for the Great Lawn project designed it to include concrete structures around the base of the large live oak across from the Peristyle. The design does not take into account the needs of the tree. Damage is happening now, with large areas deep under the canopy dug-out, lined with gravel and framed for concrete. Additionally, there is a trenched square nearly a foot deep under the canopy, cut across the roots.
As a lifelong advocate for live oaks, a recently trained Parkway Partners/Louisiana Urban Forestry Council Certified Citizen Forester; and, having learned Best Management Practices at Jefferson Tree School, a continuing education program for arborists, I know that the top 18 inches of soil are the most critical to the health of live oaks. The photos show the “improvements” underway have removed the top layer of soil and deeply trenched a section, cutting vital roots.
This is clearly a case of destructive design and construction that should have been stopped at several stages of the process.
With the heat, drought and now root damage, this tree will suffer significant die-off from which it will never fully recover. I believe you should immediately bring in a local live oak expert such as Scott Courtright or Tom Campbell to evaluate and try to remediate the damage already done.
It is time for City Park to stop using impermeable hardscapes that suffocate the soil, kill the trees, increase flooding and erosion, and speed pollutants into our precious waterways. No more impermeable concrete or toxic asphalt!
In researching this situation I learned an important fact regarding landscape architects: their degree does not require them to be arborists.
To me, this explains many things regarding how and why trees have been damaged in City Park.
Trees seem to be chosen by the park’s go-to landscape architect with appearance superseding appropriateness. Paving systems are designed and built without an arborist’s understanding of their impact. This is not in line with Best Management Practices for native flora, water management, enhancement of the flyway and wildlife, or Low Impact Design. Any number of people in our area are experts on these matters. Some of them are cc’d in this email.
This is not a job for volunteers. Well paid contractors–using taxpayer funding and donations of people who assume we’re using BMPs–are currently creating these destructive actions. It’s past time to include paid local experts who can help the park become the green leader we all need and deserve.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.