L AFAYETTE — Unlike the horde of telephone poles, billboards and new buildings sprouting from the pavement, trees are slowly becoming a limited commodity in the city.
ReCover Acadiana hopes to grow the green landscape in Lafayette with a project this week to plant 260 trees across the city.
“We are trying to improve our communities through environmentally responsible projects,” said Gretchen Vanicor, co-founder of ReCover Acadiana.
ReCover Acadiana grew from the philanthropy committee of the705, an organization for young leaders in Acadiana, as a program that focuses on remediation projects.
“Gretchen and I developed a mission,” co-founder Kate Durio said . “We want to empower other groups to take charge in their own neighborhoods, which is why we are constantly looking for partner projects. We both have bracelets that have a secret message on the inside. It says, ‘Fixing the ugly.’ ”
Apache Corporation and Durio Growers gave ReCover Acadiana the 260 trees to plant this week as part of Project Frontyard, a city wide beautification project launched earlier this year.
Vanicor and Durio worked with Durio’s father, Albert Durio, a certified arborist, to acquire the trees.
Volunteers this week are planting a variety of trees throughout the city, including portions of Dorsey-Donlon Park and Beaver Park.
A group of students who volunteered with The Big Event on Saturday helped Durio begin planting in Graham Brown Memorial Park on Pont des Mouton Road.
Vanicor said improving landscapes will not only prevent flooding but also improve air quality and provide a habitat for wildlife.
She said creating these urban forests also will reduce commuters’ stress levels and act as a buffer zone from traffic to make walking and biking safer and more pleasant.
ReCover Acadiana formed in 2013 but only recently began to gain momentum and build a vision for the community, Vanicor said.
The group has started working with city-parish government through Project Frontyard and TreesAcadiana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the planting and conservation of trees in urban and community forests.
But improving the landscape is just one of the duo’s many projects.
“We’ve dealt with everything from public art and murals to having helped Habitat for Humanity,” Vanicor said. “We have a lot of different goals, but it’s primarily about improving for a better Acadiana.”
Durio said they developed ReCover Acadiana because of a wall: specifically, the bare chain-linked fence encompassing the Main Library.
They used projects made by University of Louisiana at Lafayette architecture students that wouldn’t normally be seen by the public.
Durio said she felt the need to improve the fence’s appearance because she considers the location an important gateway to downtown.
In May, ReCover Acadiana also cleaned up litter along a stretch of Bertrand Drive in preparation for the Better Block Bertrand event. They later “adopted” the road, which requires them to clean it once every three months.
Vanicor said the Bertrand project will continue to be a yearly project because it’s all about cleaning up and creating community awareness.
Durio also said they previously worked with a group of art students at Paul Breaux Middle School to paint five downtown benches.
The project is ongoing for anyone in the community who may be interested in submitting a design.
“There is some merit to having some consistency to the overall visual of (the artwork),” Durio said, “but this is Lafayette, Louisiana. You should know at all times why this place is so special.
“We know there are unpleasant-looking areas. We want to fix that, but we also want to ingest public art into the community. It’s long overdue in town.”
Both Vanicor and Durio said volunteers are still needed to help with the tree-planting process.