Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating a Vibrant Public Space on the Lafitte Greenway: Parks Build Community Project to Add Several Amenities to the Southeast Portion of the Greenway

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating a Vibrant Public Space on the Lafitte Greenway: Parks Build Community Project to Add Several Amenities to the Southeast Portion of the Greenway

Article excerpt

Since 2008, the NPRA community has been spreading the message of the transformative value of parks by annually creating a park, or revitalizing an existing park, in an area of need through its Parks Build Community initiative. Locations of the parks correspond to NRPA's annual conference locations. This year's Parks Build Community project will enhance a portion of the Lafitte Greenway, located in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Lafitte Greenway runs several miles from Armstrong Park just outside of the historic French Quarter to City Park along Lake Pontchartrain. In the past, this area was a transportation canal, bustling with people walking along the canal, visiting the local gardens and businesses. It went through a myriad of changes over the years and was eventually decimated after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

After the hurricane, local citizens and the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) pulled together to come up with a plan for the space. "We had the participation of the community, and through years of work and public engagement, we came up with a plan," says Victor N. Richard III, chief executive officer of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission.

Community members formed the Friends of Lafitte Greenway and, along with the NORDC, created a master plan for the greenway and its development. The plan calls for a multiuse transportation corridor, a linear park and the purchase of private inholdings to create a contiguous greenway. To date, installations have included a path for cyclists and pedestrians complete with lighting, shade trees, lawns, ADA-compliant crosswalks and signaling, and land has been purchased through the Trust for Public Lands. While current funding has allowed some improvements to be made, creating the greenway is an ongoing process with more improvements and funding needs to come.

Improvements to the Lafitte Greenway have resulted in revitalization of the area beyond the greenway, connecting communities and businesses in the adjacent areas and neighborhoods. "The city as a whole is ecstatic about the progression" of the greenway, Richard adds. It "meets the master plan for the entire city and the intentionality of connecting communities. For example, near the greenway is a new medical corridor that includes LSU Medical Center, the Louisiana Cancer Research Center and the new Veterans Affairs hospital. Doctors, lawyers, the everyday citizen, grandparents with their grandchildren and families are all using the greenway to walk to work or to just exercise."

To enhance the community connection, the Friends of Lafitte Greenway have developed public programs focusing on health, nature, community and place. "Our goal is to improve opportunities for health and well-being for all New Orleans residents and Lafitte Greenway communities," says Sophie Harris, executive director of the Friends of Lafitte Greenway. "We offer monthly.. .garden classes at a nearby community garden geared toward children and families and are working to advocate for and create community gardens along the Lafitte Greenway. In addition, we offer free outdoor fitness classes.

"On the Lafitte Greenway on a sunny afternoon," Harris continues, "the trail is humming with students strolling home, families with grocery bags in hand, bikers in slacks and skirts headed one way, others with instruments on their backs passing the other way. …

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