Mar 18, 2024 - Development

New Orleans park leaders unveil $235 million plan for next decade

Photo shows the arch at Armstrong Park in downtown New Orleans.

People enter Louis Armstrong Park at the edge of the French Quarter. Photo: Bryan Tarnowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images

City and park leaders are calling on New Orleans to invest in better neighborhood parks over the next 10 years.

Why it matters: Climate change is making the city hotter and more flood-prone, the plan says, and parks can help by acting as a sponge and alleviating urban heat island effects.

  • Pools and shady parks also make it easier to get through the brutal heat of summer.

The big picture: The Big Green Easy vision plan proposes spending $235 million to make the park system more equitable to all neighborhoods.

Friction point: White New Orleanians are more likely to live within a 10-minute walk of a park in good condition, while Black New Orleanians are more likely to live near a park in poor condition, the report says.

  • Only 26% of citywide park visitors were Black, according to data gathered between 2019 and 2022.

Between the lines: Public recreation facilities in the city were originally segregated under Jim Crow laws.

  • The city fought integration until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act forced the integration of public parks and recreation facilities.

Yes, but: Officials closed many of the facilities instead of integrating them, including the large public pools in Audubon Park and City Park.

  • Public funding for public facilities plummeted, the report says. The park system was hit hard again by Hurricane Katrina and still hasn't fully recovered after almost 20 years.
Photo shows a bridge in City Park with water underneath.
The City Park Conservancy operates the park and is partially funded by a city millage. Photo: Paul Rovere/Getty Images

The plan's long-term goal is to get every resident within a 30-minute walk, bike ride or transit ride of a destination park like City Park, Joe Brown Park or Audubon.

Driving the news: The top priorities from residents were paved walking/biking trails, playgrounds and swimming pools.

  • "For the love of God, please give us some splash pads in Orleans Parish," one resident wrote.
  • Residents also want pickleball courts, the report says.

Zoom in: The plan calls for reopening Lincoln Beach, which is in the process of developing a master plan.

  • And it focuses on improving access to fishing and paddling along the city's bodies of water. It also recommends building more big and small parks around the city, along with preserving neutral grounds as linear parks.
Photo shows people running and playing in the water and on the sand of Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East
Lincoln Beach was the Black beach in New Orleans East during segregation. It closed in 1964. Undated photo: Courtesy of the City of New Orleans

By the numbers: New Orleans voters in 2019 passed a park and recreation millage to partially fund the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, the Department of Park and Parkways, Audubon Park and City Park.

  • The report says leaders should evaluate public support for an additional mill levy to fund implementation of the recommendations.

What's next: The master plan suggests the city consider combining Parks and Parkways with NORD.

  • The report also recommends the mayor appoints a chief park planning officer to lead the plan implementation.

Meanwhile, the City Park Conservancy, which operates independently of NORD, is in the process of creating its own master plan. It's supposed to be done by the end of the year.

Editor's note: This story was updated with historical context about the park system.

Go deeper:

Photos shows people sitting on the grass in Jackson Square in front of the St. Louis Cathedral.
Jackson Square is one of the original parks from when New Orleans was colonized. Photo: Samantha Kaplan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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