U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar met last week with Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) and National Parks Service members on the banks of Bayou St. John at the foot of the proposed Lafitte Corridor, the three-mile park stretching from the French Quarter to Lake Pontchartrain. Salazar announced the Obama administration's prioritized commitment to the Lafitte Corridor project via the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, led by his department as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the White House Domestic Policy Council.
The Department of the Interior also partners with local communities on outdoor and parks projects such as the Lafitte Corridor, or "greenway," which breaks ground in 2013.
"This is part of the revitalization of New Orleans," Salazar told Gambit.
FOLC President Bart Everson 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. The greenway also will provide open space to neighboring communities and visitors. It has the potential, Everson said, "to reconnect the city to its natural landscape." A first round of community meetings on the project's design wrapped up earlier this year.
The administration's three goals for the initiative are "preserving the crown jewels of America" in places like the Everglades; protecting and preserving the country's rivers systems; and, in the case of the greenway, preserving the "great urban parks," one of President Barack Obama's highest priorities, Salazar said.
The Lafitte program is one of only seven park projects nationally the Obama administration has chosen to focus and provide limited federal funds. The Lafitte project already has $7.5 million in Community Development Block Grants to kick-start construction.
"Literally thousands (of projects) could've been taken on," Salazar said, adding the administration will work closely with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office and the New Orleans City Council. (District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry said she wants the greenway to connect communities to Lake Pontchartrain.) The National Park Service also will promote the greenway.
"We don't quit," Salazar said to the crowd. "We didn't quit with Deepwater Horizon. We didn't quit after Katrina. ... 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." — Alex Woodward