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Friday, November 6, 2015

New Orleans officials celebrate opening of Lafitte Greenway

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Sophie Harris of Friends of the Lafitte Corridor and members of the New Orleans City Council cut the ribbon to the Lafitte Greenway on Nov. 6. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Sophie Harris of Friends of the Lafitte Corridor and members of the New Orleans City Council cut the ribbon to the Lafitte Greenway on Nov. 6.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu handed Sophie Harris the blue ribbon wrapped around the sign announcing an ambitious 3-mile park that links Mid-City with the French Quarter, a project imagined over decades and completed nine years after residents — the Friends of the Lafitte Greenway (FOLG) — started planning how to make it reality.

"It took a village," Harris, director of FOLG, told Gambit on Nov. 6 after city officials formally opened the Lafitte Greenway. The LED-lighted bike and pedestrian path stretches from Mid-City at Bayou St. John to the edge of the French Quarter, with gardens, parks, soccer fields and other community spaces planned along the trail. FOLG has led the planning process since 2006, and the group didn't lose hope despite canceled projects and delayed construction starts. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Interior announced a prioritized commitment to the park, and the city began construction last year. The Greenway was set to open this summer — with November's 80-degree weather, District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry (who joined the FOLC before her election to the City Council) joked, "Does it at least feel this way?"

When she joined the Council, Guidry said she made the Greenway a "bottom-line first priority project."

"I think about generations to come learning to ride their bikes on the Greenway," Guidry said.

The Greenway — a $9 million project that also includes a storm water management plan and signaled crosswalks — converts a former rail line and otherwise abandoned space into recreational green space in an area that also includes the Lafitte housing development and lower-income neighborhoods in Treme. FOLG held dozens of community meetings and design charrettes, getting neighborhood input about what the Greenway should look like and what it should mean. The path winds through areas that seem ripe for new development and gentrification, whether high-priced housing or restaurants — FOLG and city officials said they want the area to connect the neighborhoods without changing them or their culture. Last year, Gambit asked several stakeholders in the project — from planners and neighborhood groups to business owners along the route — what they hope to see.

FOLG, now acting as the Greenway's steward with more than 300 volunteers, leads community programs including garden programs, walking tours and school programming at Success Preparatory Academy on Bienville Street, just around the block from the ribbon cutting near Galvez and St. Louis streets.

"We're turning this over to you now. This is yours. You have to protect it," said Landrieu, adding that the Greenway connects neighborhoods physically and also "by class and by race."

Landrieu and District D Councilmember Jared Brossett briefly rode bikes to celebrate.

FOLG hosts its Greenway Soiree at the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club's Roy E. Glapion Reception Hall (730 Broad St.) from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. tonight.

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