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New Orleans Locals Fight to Keep City Park “Wild and Free”

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Via Lauren Rae Sullivan, local activist in New Orleans- March 17th, 2015-

A nearly century old, healthy oak tree was cut down today in City Park so golfers can have a better shot at a hole… Many more trees will be cut in the coming weeks. The park also built an enclosure fence around the tree occupied by the protesters so supply deliveries can’t be made and when they finally come down, they can be arrested.

Mature trees contribute much more to the park and the city as a whole than a new golf course that only serves a small number of people and is highly likely to fail. More golf courses are being closed than opened today in America. Even the current New Orleans-area championship golf course took a multimillion dollar “bailout” from the state a few years ago. New Orleans City Park needs to stop gambling on the future of our public land with environmentally and financially unsustainable projects. There are plenty of private and public courses in the city. There is not, however, plenty of large parks with trees, ponds, and wildlife. A oak tree offers many valuable services to our city, some that can be quantified (flood abatement, air quality improvement) and some that cannot (tranquility and peace), with no need to spend millions on maintenance.

 

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The view from the occupied tree. City Park actually built a fence around the two tree sitters who are trying to save a mature cypress tree from being cut down for the “championship” golf course. The protestors are being denied access to drinking water and are under constant surveillance by the police and park security. Some people who have walked next to the fence to offer their support with hellos and waves were threatened by police with arrest. Pretty crazy how New Orleans City Park leadership is treating a couple non-violent protestors like dangerous wild animals. The protesters are not afraid of arrest, but City Park is afraid of them. When the public is made aware of what all is being lost so a small group of people can benefit (including the private land management company Bayou District Foundation), pressure builds for change. The park CEO Bob Becker is afraid of that pressure boiling over. There are thousands of New Orleanians who want to halt this project, re-do the park master plan, and give the public more control over the future of public park land. The tree sitters are just two people in a long line that will be fighting for our city’s public natural resources from many different angles, including rallies, marches, petitions and lawsuits, for a very long time.