Lafayette Master Gardeners plan expansion at local park

Bruce Schultz, Roberts, Gerald  |  5/22/2013 4:28:03 PM

Joey Durel, Lafayette City-Parish president, at right, talks with Stacy Lee, Plant Fest chair, about the possibilities for Master Gardener activities at the Horse Farm, a new 100-acre park in Lafayette. The park will host Plant Fest on Sept. 14 this year, and Durel wants the Master Gardener program to have a major presence at the park. (Click on image for downloadable version. Photo by Bruce Schultz)

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Joey Durel, Lafayette city-parish president, second from right, talks about his intent to have a major role for the Lafayette Master Gardeners at a new 100-acre park in Lafayette. From left to right are Gerald Roberts, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafayette Parish, who teaches Master Gardener classes; Marc Wiley, Lafayette Master Gardener president; Durel, a Master Gardener graduate; Stacy Lee, a Master Gardener and chair of the Lafayette Plant Fest, to be held Sept. 15 at the park. (Click on photo to get downloadable version. Photo by Bruce Schultz)

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News Release Distributed 05/22/13

LAFAYETTE, La. – Joey Durel, Lafayette city-parish president, wants to make sure the local Master Gardeners organization will have a major role at the new 100-acre park commonly known as the Horse Farm.

The Lafayette chapter of the LSU AgCenter Master Gardeners is involved in two projects at the park, the farmer’s market, which will be June 1, and the Plant Fest, which will be Sept. 14.

The Master Gardeners had a major presence at last September's Plant Fest with speakers and exhibits related to gardening. More than 5,000 people attended.

“It was our first real, formal event,” Durel recalled. “I was so impressed.”

Stacy Lee, Plant Fest chair, said the Master Gardeners said the festival featured a wide range of vendors and demonstrations, along with experts to answer horticultural questions. She said Master Gardeners have a presence at the farmer’s market, also.

“It’s not our farmer’s market, but we are supporting it,” Lee said.

Durel, a graduate of the Master Gardener program, said the Master Gardeners will be based at the park with space for greenhouses and gardens.

“Our idea is to have greenhouses and demonstration gardens,” said Marc Wiley, president of the Lafayette Master Gardeners. “People will be able to see what is offered and how things are grown and how gardens are arranged. Education is our main focus.”

Wiley said the Lafayette Master Gardeners have donated $5,000 to the park.

The city-parish government reached an agreement with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to buy the land, located between Johnston Street and West Bayou Parkway. It was last used by ULL as an equestrian center.

Currently, the Lafayette Master Gardeners have access to greenhouses and gardens at the ULL Ira Nelson Horticulture Center until the organization secures a new permanent location.

Wiley said Durel was adamant that he wanted the Master Gardeners to be based at the park.

Durel said the property is being turned over to a nonprofit organization that will run it, with the goal of having it open for daily use by the fall of 2015.

In the meantime, events such as the farmer’s market and Plant Fest provide access to the park.

Gerald Roberts, LSU AgCenter county agent in Lafayette Parish, said the number of applications to the Master Gardener class has increased. “People want to be a part of something as big as this.”

Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor, said the Master Gardener work at the Horse Farm will be a showcase for Master Gardeners statewide. “This project exemplifies the LSU AgCenter’s mission for outreach and extension.”

The Master Gardener program, which is a nationwide effort, started in Louisiana in 1994. Currently, there are more than 2,000 active Master Gardeners in the state. Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener may contact the local parish AgCenter extension office.

Bruce Schultz
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