Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, met with Friends of the Lafitte Corridor today on the banks of Bayou St. John, flanked by a post office and Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Salazar announced the Obama Administration's prioritized commitment to the to the Lafitte Corridor project via the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, led by the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council. It also partners with local communities, specifically for outdoor and parks projects like the Lafitte Corridor. (To clarify a previous post: Salazar's mention of $7 million is from an already-in-place Community Development Block Grant from the Louisiana Recovery Association, allocated to the Lafitte Corridor.)
"This is part of the revitalization of New Orleans," Salazar told Gambit. The project will break ground in 2013.
Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) group advocating for the project, said despite the project being "down in the weeds," the "greenway" will "reclaim the space left behind," rejuvenating a corridor formerly used as a shipping canal, a railway, and now for drainage, and open the space to its communities and visitors. It has the potential, Everson said, "to reconnect the city to its natural landscape." Community meetings on the project's design plans wrapped up this year. (Read more about the project here.)
More than 400 million people visit the United States' 397 parks each year, Salazar said. "We are the envy of the world." The administration's three goals through the initiative are "preserving the crown jewels of America," like the Everglades; protecting and preserving the country's rivers systems; and, where the Lafitte applies, preserving the "great urban parks," one of President Barack Obama's highest priorities, Salazar said.
The Lafitte project is one of only seven parks projects nationally the administration is taking on. "Literally thousands could've been taken on," Salazar said, adding the administration will work closely with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office and New Orleans City Council. (District A councilmember Susan Guidry said she wants the greenway to connect communities to the rebirth of Lake Pontchartrain.) The National Parks Service also will promote the greenway nationally.
"We don't quit," Salazar said to the crowd. "The best days of New Orleans are still ahead of us. ... Ten years from now (the greenway) will be one of the iconic places (in New Orleans) and will look very different from what it does today."