Aug 3, 2014 5:27 PM by KATIE DE LA ROSA
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - It was a typical summer Tuesday: The sun was relentless, the Johnston Street traffic congested and E.B. Brooks was at the horse farm.
Brooks, the design and planning director for Lafayette Central Park Inc. and a co-founder of the Save the Horse Farm movement, sat behind the steering wheel of her black Honda Civic that afternoon with three maps spread across her lap. She was prepared for an hour-long tour of the 100-acre property.
Brooks started by reciting the well-known stories of how she first became involved with the horse farm in 2005, recounting the touching tale of how she co-founded the movement that ultimately saved it from commercial development. When that news broke, her professor sprung Brooks and her best friend into action, making enough signs and a big enough fuss that nine years later the land is shopping-mall free and has a park in the works. It's an enchanting fairytale, a happily-ever-after that Brooks said she won't ever get tired of telling.
But what about the stories from earlier chapters? In the Book of Brooks, what happened in the pages leading up to now? Who was the Fayetteville, Arkansas, native before the horse farm and her almost decade-long quest to save it?
"I'm not sure I understand the question," Brooks replied.
As a youngster, Brooks, 32, wanted to be a pilot.
She was fascinated by observing cities from 30,000 feet, but only years later - and after flying lessons in high school that helped weed out a career in aviation - did she discover why she felt drawn to the air.
"I hadn't realized that I wanted that high vantage point as a planner, with maps and ideas, to shape those cities," Brooks added.
Brooks didn't figure out what she wanted to do until she 19, when she read "Ishmael," a 1992 philosophical novel by Daniel Quinn - a work she said aims to establish a realistic relationship between humans and the environment. The fog clouding her future started to clear.
"I wanted to be outside, save the environment, make the world a better place," Brooks said. "I just needed to find how I could."
The newfound inspiration prompted her 2003 transfer from the university of Mississippi to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where she studied environmental and sustainability resources. The move proved fateful, as she met beloved environmental science professor Griff Blakewood, who died of cancer just last month. He pushed her to join the environmental club that she credits for molding her into an activist.
Serendipity struck again with Danica Adams, a classmate turned best friend. Adams lived in an old house on horse farm, then owned by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, but was kicked out with no warning in 2005. It was an inconvenience they didn't realize until later that was also the catalyst to the rest of their lives.
That brings the story full circle, back to Blakewood inspiring Brooks and Adams to fight for the land they loved.
Glimpsing into her past, though, puts it in perspective. Brooks didn't lead community meetings or attend graduate school in Austin to save the horse farm out of some hippie obligation to the environment - although she will admit that was certainly part of it. It's always been far bigger than that.
The horse farm, that urban pocket of lush rolling hills, is where the self-described lost soul wrote in her journal for class, partied in the barn's rafters for Adams' birthday and relaxed on the swing she and Adams put up 10 years ago that's still hanging.
She saved the horse farm, because the horse farm saved her, she said.
"I mean, look at this," Brooks said, panning her arm across the landscape. "This is where I'm supposed to be. This is my dream job."