Josh Edmond is a shining example of what it means to take ownership of your community. As a maintenance supervisor at UL Lafayette since 1999, he knows the impact of green spaces firsthand.
When trees go down, it’s not just the landscape that suffers.
“A tree’s root system is as big as a tree. A tree’s roots is like its nervous system. With [concrete] the trees look good, but they’re suffering,” Edmond says. “At UL when a tree goes down we like to plant another one. Trees aren’t just good for looks. It’s a filtration system for the air.”
He’s taken that approach to his fervent advocacy on the Northside.
Economic disparities between north and south Lafayette are stark. Decades of redlining have left the Northside in a state of de facto segregation. And a lack of investment in the area has left residents — most of them African American — struggling.
More than 50% of Lafayette residents live in a census tract that meets the standard definition of food desert — which includes the entirety of the Northside.
Community leaders like Edmond have been vocal about the necessity of investment in the area. The Lafayette Economic Development Authority submitted a report to the Legislature with plans to revitalize north Lafayette, including recruiting local businesses to fill voids in the area, identifying sites for development and expanding services.
For Edmond, part of that development needs to include green spaces. Studies have shown how beneficial green spaces are for both the physical and mental well-being of residents. People of color are three times more likely to live in “nature deprived” neighborhoods.
“Beautification, neighborhood abatement is a team sport,” Edmond says. “Don’t throw that bubble gum wrapper into the drain … that’ll go into bodies of water like the Vermilion.”
Edmond, who is also a minister, is always going to bat for the Northside: He is president of the Oasis Community Coterie serving the Truman, Bayberry Point, Richter Park neighborhoods; a board member of Habitat for Humanity; a member of the community relations committee for the police department; and founder of the All4One Foundation. On top of all that, he is an ambassador for Parish Proud.
His work with Parish Proud is a natural extension of community building: Beautification keeps areas cleaner and healthier, while building a deeper sense of pride within residents.
As a part of his work as an ambassador, Edmond led a clean-up effort of the Gethsemane Gardens Cemetery in the Truman neighborhood. With more than 85 volunteers, they were able to remove 250-plus bags of trash in one day. He takes great pride in being a resource for emphasizing the importance of litter abatement and beautification.
“When you’ve lost a loved one and you’re bringing them to their final resting place, it should be a clean place,” he says.