Tree sitter who protested construction of golf course in City Park to do community service
NEW ORLEANS A nature activist who sat in a cypress tree for 12 days in an ill-fated protest to stop construction of a new golf course on an overgrown chunk of City Park has pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was ordered to do 100 hours of community service.
The protester, Jonathan "Lloyd" Boover, 32, of New Orleans, will serve that sentence with a nature-based charity, his attorney, Michael Kennedy, told The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1CEbMqp).
On Wednesday, Municipal Court Judge Sean Early handed down a 30-day suspended sentence and ordered Boover to do 100 hours of community service.
Nature activists are upset at City Park for moving ahead with a plan to turn an overgrown piece of the park into a championship-level golf course.
The new golf course will replace golfing grounds destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. After the golf course was closed, the area became overgrown and resembled a slice of wilderness, becoming a favorite spot for a mix of people dog walkers, nature lovers, athletes and meditators.
City Park is one of the largest urban public parks in the nation at 1,300 acres. Since Katrina, park officials have been transforming this gem of a green space. Before Katrina, there had been four golf courses. One moderately priced and smallish course has been rebuilt.
The park hopes to bring competitive golf tournaments to the new multimillion-dollar course, called the Bayou Oaks Golf Course.
Boover's protest ended when he fell out of the tree he had perched himself in March 24. Boover said he suffered a broken nose from his fall.
"You break the law, there's consequences," said John Hopper, a City Park spokesman and chief development officer. "It does send a message: You can't just break the law and hope nothing will happen."
Boover and a female protester climbed into the tree by getting through a construction fence set up around the golf course construction site. The female protester climbed out of the tree shortly after Orleans Parish sheriff's deputies showed up.
During the protest, sheriff's deputies set up a round-the-clock watch. Boover's supporters and well-wishers were kept away.
Boover has said he fell out of the tree due to hunger and because the deputies had blasted him with rap music, generator noises and fumes and floodlights at night.
After his fall, Boover hoisted himself back up into the cypress to avoid arrest, but then asked for medical help, according to a sheriff's office memo. The memo said Boover fell when his makeshift hammock overturned as he waved to a crowd of well-wishers.
A group calling itself the City Park for Everyone Coalition has sued the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in federal court over construction of the course.
The suit, filed in March, alleges among other things that FEMA incorrectly deemed that the new golf course would have "no significant impact" on the environment.
The association, a state agency that manages and operates the 1,300-acre park, is pressing to have the lawsuit dismissed.
Construction of the new course and a clubhouse is slated for completion in 2017.