“I don’t think my poor old sign had another month left in it,” says Pat McDonald, a founding member
of Save the Horse Farm

It’s time for some attaboys in the successful effort to ‘Save the Horse Farm.’
By Leslie Turk
July 11, 2012

For almost seven years, I’ve dreamed about writing this column. It feels as good as I’d hoped it would.

I’ll never forget Danica Adams coming into The Independent’s office one Friday afternoon in October 2005. She wanted everyone in this community to know what the 100 acres of undeveloped UL Horse Farm property meant to her and her fellow students, informing us they had an 8-foot tall “Pavement or Paradise” sign making its way through Downtown Alive! When she asked for our advice on where to go next, I suggested she head to the property on Johnston Street, where she’d likely get lots of exposure. It was a little awkward suggesting ways to drum up publicity, but by this time The Independent was clear about where it stood on this issue. We had been first to the story involving the suspect land swap between the university and attorney Jimmy Davidson’s Girard Park Drive property, and we were turning up disturbing new details about those orchestrating the deal and the transaction itself, principally how UL appeared to be leaving millions on the table. We were quickly becoming advocates for preserving the space, so much so that we pleaded in an open letter to UL President Ray Authement to kill the deal.

But back to that Friday afternoon. Adams took the advice a step further, placing an anonymous call to local TV stations to tell them students were on Johnston Street protesting development of the property. They made the afternoon and evening news, giving birth and momentum to a grassroots effort, Save the Horse Farm.

Last week Adams, “EB” Brooks, Pat McDonald and hundreds of others across the city and parish who took on this preservation project accomplished their mission. Their voice had been heard years before by City-Parish President Joey Durel and UL President Joe Savoie (even before he could warm the seat of his new chair in the president’s office), but last Tuesday afternoon seven wise men sealed the deal — and their place in Lafayette’s history. Don Bertrand, Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille, Andy Naquin, Kevin Naquin, Keith Patin and Brandon Shelvin voted to buy the Horse Farm from UL in a cash and land swap transaction valued at $6.6 million. The deal is made all the sweeter by what it means for landlocked UL — potentially a down payment on the old Lourdes property near campus.

After the vote, Durel had hoped to thank those involved, but with discussion shut down, council Chair Jared Bellard refused to recognize him (though he certainly could have). “This is your finest moment, your proudest hour,” Durel planned to tell the council. “Your vision in going forward with the comprehensive plan will reap rewards for Lafayette for years to come, but nothing will define your tenure, so visibly, than what you have done tonight. Ninety-nine percent of what you do as a councilman will quickly be forgotten, [but] preserving this beautiful piece of property, for future generations, will never be.”

Photo by Robin May
Danica Adams

We’re confident he made the rounds to thank the others on his list.

Note to Dumb and Dumber (our council chair and co-chair, respectively): When that plaque goes up thanking those who preserved this space, we will make sure you’re not on it. It is obvious that you do not share our values.

There is still much work to be done. But we’re well on our way. Lafayette, you did good. We’re getting our “Paradise.”

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