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National

Wild Is Free: Tree Sitter Protests New Orleans Golf Course Construction

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Protester Lloyd Boover has been occupying a cypress tree in New Orleans for seven days now. He's perched about two stories up, with a big banner proclaiming Wild Is Free. Boover is protesting a $24 million golf complex being built in New Orleans' City Park. It's a part of the park that was a golf course before it flooded in Hurricane Katrina. For the past 10 years, the area has grown wild, visited by birders, picnickers and dog walkers. But to others, it's a neglected eyesore, and construction is underway for a PGA-caliber golf course to be finished in two years. The protester, Lloyd Boover, has a cell phone with him up in that cypress tree and we've given him a call.

Lloyd, why don't you describe your perch for us up there?

LLOYD BOOVER: Oh, it's beautiful. I'm in a hammock and swinging, watching birds. There's cranes and robins and blue jays, beautiful oak trees all around me. And it's hard to describe - I'm seeing oak trees being destroyed and it's such a beautiful day.

BLOCK: Well, how did you decide to go ahead and take your opposition to the golf course two stories up in that tree and camp out up there?

BOOVER: It felt safer than being on the ground. I felt that if we were intense, they would try to arrest us. And this way, you know, it's allowed us maybe to have some time for the public to hear why we're up here.

BLOCK: Well, City Park is a big place, right? And this was a golf course before Katrina. Supporters say, look, the money that's brought in from the golf fees will help with the upkeep of the rest of the park.

BOOVER: It doesn't take much money to maintain wilderness, you know? It's free. So, I don't understand that argument and I think having green space is more vital and important to community than a golf course. I love to hike, I love to come out and lay out in the sun, and there really isn't a space for that anymore here.

BLOCK: How are you managing to sleep up there and are you at all worried about falling?

BOOVER: Oh, yeah of course I am. But I've camped before in trees and hammocks before so I'm a little bit used to it. But it is a little bit scary when you have to kind of catch yourself because you know you're about to fall when you're half-asleep.

BLOCK: How much food and water do you have up there with you?

BOOVER: Theoretically I have enough to last me the weekend, but I probably will have to come down by Monday.

BLOCK: What's the best thing you've seen since you've been up that Cyprus tree?

BOOVER: The birds. There's a group of cranes nesting on me.

BLOCK: Nesting on you?

BOOVER: Well, on top of the tree with me. They're beautiful. There's about a dozen of them.

BLOCK: Well, when you come down - because you are going to have to come down - look, the golf course is underway, right? They're building that and it doesn't look like that's going to be stopped. Will you feel like it was worth it to have been up there for a week or more?

BOOVER: Oh yes, definitely. You know, this is nature. This is my element. I love it here. I mean, like, I think it's definitely worthwhile and probably even worth a second shot.

BLOCK: I don't know that they're going to let you anywhere near that tree.

BOOVER: Oh, I don't expect this tree to even be here when I leave, but there's always another tree.

BLOCK: Well, Lloyd Boover, thanks so much for taking time to talk to us. I guess you have some time on your hands up there, but thanks for spending some of it with us.

BOOVER: Thank you for listening to me, I appreciate it.

BLOCK: That's Lloyd Boover, who is high up in a tree in New Orleans. There is a warrant for his arrest for trespassing. City Park sent us a statement that says, in part, presently the concern of City Park officials is for Mr. Boover's safety. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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