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New Orleans officials celebrate the opening of the Lafitte Greenway connecting Mid-City with the French Quarter 

  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), formerly known as Friends of the Lafitte Corridor — started planning to make it reality.

  "It took a village," Harris, director of FOLG, told Gambit 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.

  FOLG has led the planning process since 2006, and has weathered 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, and District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry (who joined the FOLG before her election to the City Council) said when she joined the council, she made the Greenway a "bottom-line first priority project."

  The Greenway — a $9 million project that also includes a storm water management plan and crosswalks with traffic signals — 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 to get neighborhood input about how the Greenway should look and what it should mean. FOLG and city officials said they want the area to connect the neighborhoods without changing them or their culture.

  FOLG, now acting as the Greenway's steward with more than 300 volunteers, leads community programs including garden projects, walking tours and school programming at Success Preparatory Academy on Bienville Street near the site of the opening ceremony at Galvez and St. Louis streets.

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

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