The beautiful new solid wrought iron fence recently installed on the corner of 7th and Lavoisier Streets behind St. Joseph Church and Shrine in Gretna took a long time to get there, but is definitely an upgrade to the church complex.  The devoted St. Joseph Restoration volunteers made sure the old rusty, falling apart galvanized fence was finally replaced.

The old fence in places was tied together with wire as a means to keep secure the parking lot that also serves as a playground for the Mothers’ Day Out – 2, 3, and 4-year-old school program.

There are 13 Live Oak trees that are at least 100 years old in the back of St. Joseph Church surrounding the parking lot/schoolyard. The old Oaks were the primary concern when making plans to replace the unsightly chain link fence that had been there for decades.     

An old picture of the 1918 school, which we know as the cafeteria/auditorium today shows the Live Oaks along the sidewalk with no galvanized fence apparent. The date of this picture is unknown, but it is prior to 1947. This picture was published in the St. Joseph Parish Centennial booklet.

So, as usual, the group went looking for a generous soul, realizing an arborist was needed. And right here in Gretna, we had the good luck to find in our midst, Brook Burmaster,  

He is a lifetime Greta resident, a 1990 Archbishop Shaw Alum and State Certified Arborist! Burmaster, the son of Joe and Jo Ann Toomy and the late Johnny Burmaster has served as the Jefferson Parish Director of Streets Dept. since 1997. He became an important part of the fence project!

Burmaster recommended that the present 4’ galvanized posts remain in place since some posts were embedded in the roots. He also found the posts very sturdy. He said he would use a sleeve of the wrought iron placed over the 4’ posts and that a 6’ high fence would be better structurally. He agreed with the group that a 6’ fence would look better aesthetically because of the height of the trees. It was discussed that some parts of the wrought iron would have to be cut out as much as a foot up in some places to pass over the tree roots.                              GG239.JPG

Burmaster suggested that one option would be to replace the fence at the present location, along the sidewalk on 7th Street and on the Lavoisier Street side. A second option would be to place the new wrought iron fence inside of the yard on the other side of the trees. Most of this area that would be between the newly positioned fence and the sidewalk is covered with roots. Moving the fence on the parking lot side of the trees would not interfere with the parking lot and would still allow space for the concrete benches in the yard.

The grounds would appear smaller than it does with the fence along the sidewalk. He recommended if we move the fence inside that we cover the area from the fence to the sidewalk with mulch which is fairly inexpensive. He said the space would look more appealing and that the mulch would be good for the trees.        

If we chose the option to relocate the fence line, Burmaster said that the existing posts must be cut off rather than pulled out in order to protect the roots. Ripping up the roots would be much more damaging to the Oaks. Father Gary, (Rev. Gary Copping) the pastor who makes all final decisions at St. Joseph’s, chose to keep the fence line along the sidewalk, where it was originally.

The new fence, sturdy and aesthetically pleasing had to be modified on the bottom in many places in order to protect the trees. 

There were two gates on 7th Street, one driveway gate that was replaced with an electronic self-closing gate, and one single gate on the corner that was replaced with solid fencing.  On the Lavoisier Street side, there was one driveway fence that was replaced and a single gate that was also replaced with solid fencing.            

We owe a debt of gratitude to Brook Burmaster for his generosity in guiding us toward decisions regarding the new fence. There is hope that the fence and Live Oaks will be there for centuries more.   

The fence was bought and paid for through the special events held by the St. Joseph Restoration group, like Lundi Gras 2023 Burger & Hot Dog Stand, the 2022 Rummage Sale and Restoration’s share of Chili Cookoff on the River 2021 which was split with the Lafitte Hurricane Ida Relief Fund. The fence cost was right at $40,000.     

One task is done, Restoration is now preparing for Rummage Sale 2023 on Oct. 21 and Chili Cookoff on the River 2023 on Oct. 28. The goal is $40,000 needed for a replacement of the walk-in freezer used for the St. Joseph Day Altar.