Saturday was the Sixth Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor, a great day for me — or it would have been, if it wasn’t sandwiched between the death of two pets and some other personal drama I don’t want to go into right now. As it was, my mind was just a bit clouded. The event turned out to be very cool, and I appreciated that, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it.
Forthwith, an assemblage of random notes and related media.
Here are my opening remarks before the hike.
How many people made the hike this year? Not sure exactly. 156 attendees registered in advance, 118 people signed in Saturday morning, and Lake counted 130 heads at one point. Approximately 80 people made it the full three miles to Canal Boulevard. Whatever the exact number, it was a bit less than last year, but that’s to be expected given the circumstances. Last year this project seemed on the verge of actually happening, and we’ve clearly taken a step back. But I still felt this was a very respectable showing and I was very happy with the turnout.
This was the first time we asked people to register in advance. I was hesitant to do anything that might seem to create a barrier to participation, but it sure does make planning easier. We used Eventbrite for this purpose. This was my second time using Eventbrite, and I remain impressed.
Here are some nifty graphics generated by the site.
Looks like we had people coming to hike from all over the country.
This chart shows that most people waited until a day or two before the event to register.
Indeed, people were still signing up less than an hour before the hike began.
Registration was free, but people had an option to donate an amount of their choosing. We raised $175 through the registration process ($189 before fees) and we also collected $65 in donations at the actual hike. However, this was not conceived as a fundraiser.
We enjoyed the sponsorship of Massey’s Professional Outfitters once again, as well as Merrell, a shoe company out of Michigan. Rouse’s also chipped in to underwrite the cost of lunch.
The coolest surprise of the day, for me, was the musical entertainment which was provided my the Sunshine Steelers, an instrumental due consisting of acoustic guitar and steel drums. Very mellow and laid back, the prefect accompaniment to lunch.
There were so many people who worked together to make this a success, I’m sure if I started to name names I’d forget someone and then I’d get in trouble. But I am grateful to them all. It is humbling to be at the center of such a great group of people.
Also of note, an excellent article by Molly Reid in the Times-Picayune, which appeared on the front of the Metro section the morning of the hike. I learned a few things reading this.
Lafitte Greenway linear park progress derailed, but fresh start promised
By Molly Reid, The Times-Picayune
May 08, 2010, 8:00AM
As Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration finishes its first week on the job, supporters of the Lafitte Greenway, a proposed linear park following the 3.1-mile French Quarter-to-Lakeview footprint of a former railway, are looking for answers about the fate of the project’s stalled design and construction.
Today, the annual hike of the proposed greenway, led by the advocacy group Friends of Lafitte Corridor, will have a markedly different tone from last year’s event.
“We were pretty pumped up” at the 2009 hike, said the group’s president, Bart Everson.
And why not? The city had recently allocated $11.6 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money for the project, which aims to turn the former railroad right of way into a public park and path for pedestrians and cyclists. The city was beginning to gather proposals from design firms for the project’s planning and construction.
“We were really excited about that, and we were hoping that by this year we could have a groundbreaking,” Everson said.
The 2009 hike attracted more than 200 participants, “which was a first for us and really confirmed our hope that the project was really blossoming in terms of public support,” said Daniel Samuels, a founding member of the Lafitte group.
Soon after the city inked a contract in November with the Austin, Texas-based firm Design Workshop, however, the project fell apart.
According to Dubravka Gilic, a grant administrator for the city, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development began scrutinizing all city projects using CDBG money. HUD was questioning two aspects of the Nagin administration’s policy for awarding city contracts: one concerning points awarded for bidders with local offices, the other regarding the mayor’s ability to select outside the four most competitive bids.
Though it wasn’t clear there was an issue with the Design Workshop deal, which had the support of the Lafitte group, “the city decided to pre-emptively rebid some of the projects in question,” Everson said.
The city terminated the Design Workshop contract in January and sent out a new solicitation. The bid window closed in mid-April, but the Nagin administration did not award a new contract, Gilic said.
“I can’t convey how frustrated and heartbroken we were when we took this giant step back,” Samuels said. Design Workshop “basically had the rug pulled out from underneath them.”
Complicating the issue was shifting oversight of the project, which originally belonged to the Office of Recovery and Development Administration and was then handed over to both the City Planning Commission and the Department of Public Works. After the contract was rebid, oversight went to Nagin aide Kenya Smith, who left City Hall last week, Gilic said.
The Landrieu administration said Friday that Cedric Grant, one of six deputy mayors in the reconfigured City Hall, will oversee the project.
“Mayor Landrieu is committed to seeing the Lafitte Greenway project through,” said spokesman Ryan Berni. “It’s an important project from an urban planning perspective and is a valuable recreational green space that can be utilized and enjoyed by the entire community.”
Design Workshop principal architect Steven Spears said the firm resubmitted its bid and “would be honored to work with the city again.”
Once the new contract is awarded, the greenway’s design and “phase one” construction, consisting of the basic path and green space rehabilitation, could be finished in less than two years, Everson said. He hopes that today’s hike would remind residents that, despite the past year’s glitches, the corridor is worth the wait.
“If people can come out and see this land in its raw state and see the potential, they can envision what it could be,” Everson said. “We really feel like this could be a transformative project for New Orleans.”
Molly Reid can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3448.
Finally, (coincidentally?) there was this letter to the editor which appeared in Saturday’s paper as well.
A boon for bikers, walkers: A letter to the editor
By Letters to the Editor
May 08, 2010, 1:46AM
Thank you to Entergy Corp. for supporting safer bicycle and pedestrian activity in New Orleans through a grant to the Louisiana Public Health Institute. This grant provides vital technical support to City Hall, driving the implementation of bike lanes and walking paths.
Plans include new pedestrian safety technologies like countdown signals as well as increased bicycle parking and improved non-motorized access at schools.
By next year, the city bikeway network will grow to over 44 miles of designated interconnected bicycle routes. New curb ramps and sidewalks are being added to repaving projects at an unprecedented rate.
The city began work on its first greenway project in the Lafitte Corridor, converting vacant industrial space into a public amenity and sparking the revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods.
Entergy’s contribution is the type of investment that New Orleans desperately needs. We encourage Mayor Mitch Landrieu to capitalize on this momentum.
Metro Bicycle Coalition
Friends of Lafitte Corridor