Architecture students help clean up clearcut

January 30, 2008

by Katie Fontenot

When several acres located on Barnett Springs Avenue in Ruston were clear-cut in December, Alexis Wreden, an associate professor of architecture, wanted to help alleviate some of the growing pains felt by the surrounding neighborhood.

Wreden, along with roughly 15 students from the School of Architecture, spent a Sunday afternoon helping camouflage an elderly resident’s backyard view whose home backs up to the clear-cut site.

Wreden said she lives in the surrounding neighborhood, known as University Hills, and has been an active member for years in the effort for community beautification.

“I was home for lunch with my husband when I heard the machines start cutting, and I thought, ‘Oh no, we’ve got to do something,'” Wreden said.

After gathering in the streets with fellow neighbors, Wreden said she knew she wanted to help those affected adjust to the loss of landscape.

Wreden donated azalea bushes from her yard and a friend donated trees.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got my bushes, I’ve got my trees, now I just need labor,'” Wreden said.

That need would be filled by students of the School of Architecture.

Lance Mathews, a senior architecture major, said, “We were more than happy to help. Any opportunity to get out of Hale Hall for a little bit is great.”

Wreden said this type of reaction is not uncommon of the architecture students.

“They just jumped on the opportunity,” Wreden said. “These students are very socially aware.”

Ashley Mauldin, a senior architecture major, said she was excited at the chance to help the affected neighbor.

“The owner knew we were coming, but wasn’t there when we were working. It was probably a nice surprise to come home to,” Mauldin said.

Wreden said the logging left from the clear-cutting is better than the alternative, burning, but the effects are still harmful.

“The amount of damage done to an otherwise healthy environment can be huge. This whole system of accumulation and growth, this intentional network, all the animal habitats, are gone,” Wreden said.

Wreden also said with the absence of trees and roots to hold in the soil on the sloping acreage, rain water and mud will have nowhere to go but in her neighbors’ backyards.

The students and Wreden said they would love to help more residents, and Wreden has even offered her design services to provide neighbors with attractive scenery.

Mathews said for the students, the project was more than a chance to volunteer.

“We got to learn about roots and how to plant trees,” Mathews said.

Wreden said this type of on-site learning experience is what the School of Architecture attempts to provide for the students.

Wreden said, “We try to give our students projects like this because the more aware students are, the more change they can bring.”