The Port Allen City Council approved a resolution to implement no parking signs along Whitehead Boulevard’s median in an effort to maintain the 40 or so oak trees that run down the center of the road.
A similar resolution was presented to the City Council last month after Whitehead Bouelvard resident Doug Smith raised the issue of the oak trees’ health, but it was shot down by a 3-2 vote by the council’s black majority amid talk of the city’s racial division. However, a couple votes on the City Council swung in favor of the resolution at the last meeting after news reports and heated discussion on social media.
Hugh “Hootie” Rivierre, who voted in favor of the measure last month, said the controversy online was “nonstop.”
“This issue has grown to be more than it should have,” Smith said to City Council members. “There were some really inflamatory things that were spoken that didn’t need to be spoken. We’re just saying to put up the [no parking] signs.”
Other residents of the Oaks neighborhood were present in council chambers to voice their support for the resolution.
“I’ve lived in Port Allen for 20 years. It’s heartbreaking to see this town so divided over the beauty of the city,” said nearby River Road resident Samantha Bell to the City Council. “This was out of hand.”
Parking vehicles on the roots of oak trees can cause long-term damage to them by compacting the soil, according to arborists. New Orleans and LSU enforce similar rules around their many oak trees because they recognize the monetary and aesthetic value the trees provide, Smith said.
The issue is perhaps most pronounced during the city’s special events, such as the Fourth of July festival and the Mardi Gras parade hosted by the neighborhood’s Krewe of the Good Friends of the Oaks. The parking burden shouldn’t be on the shoulders of the residents, Smith said.
So far, no residents appeared to oppose parking enforcement at any of the city discussions, Smith told council members.
Smith said that 18 Whitehead Boulevard residents signed a petition he circulated in the neighborhood to implement the signs. Thirty-two residents throughout the city also signed the petition, he said.
“I don’t see how this is going to change the rotation of the Earth. I think we just need the signs,” said Councilman Gary Hubble, who was in favor of the resolution last month.
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence had questioned the need for the no-parking signs last meeting and pointed out that other neighborhoods in her district have frequent parking issues.
“If you have a parking issue in your district, let’s address it,” Smith said at last week’s meeting.
Lawrence changed her vote in favor of the measure, as did Councilman at Large Carey Williams.
However, Councilman Brandon Brown was not convinced by Smith’s petition and abstained from the vote as a result.
Whitehead Boulevard has been eyed for a potential “vertical park” and is considered one of the more scenic parts of the city by Port Allen officials.