I’m quoted in a story which appeared in yesterday’s New Orleans Picayune. Many thanks to Annette Sisco for a fine writeup.
Annual Lafitte Corridor hike through New Orleans is April 16
For the seventh year, a group of New Orleanians will put on their walking shoes and tramp along an abandoned railway from Armstrong Park to Lakeview, following a path that is slated to become a linear park one day.
Hikers trek the Lafitte Corridor in 2009. This year’s hike is April 16.
The Friends of the Lafitte Corridor organizes the annual hike along the former Norfolk Southern Rail Line, a strip of land that links Tremé, Mid-City, Faubourg St. John, City Park and Lakeview. This year’s hike begins April 16 at 10 a.m.
In June, the city bought the last 17 acres of the corridor — bordered by North Dorgenois, St. Louis and Lafitte streets and North Claiborne Avenue — from the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization, for $3.8 million in Community Development Block Grant money.
“The Greenway will serve as a link between new and existing parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and community centers, encouraging active living and promoting public health,” said Cedric Grant, deputy mayor of Facilities, Infrastructure and Community Development. “The design process will be intensely focused on gathering public input and community support. In the end, we expect to have not only a design for the 3.1-mile linear park but a road map for revitalizing the many neighborhoods along the Lafitte Corridor.” Plans for the strip include turning it into a public park and transportation corridor for bike paths and walkways.
With all of the land in city hands, it remains only for the design to be finished, said Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor. In August, the Landrieu administration granted a contract for the design to Design Workshop of Austin, Texas.
“At the heart of this is a trail, a continuous, safe trail that goes from the Quarter to Lakeview,” Everson said. For bikers and pedestrians, cross streets with traffic are a major hazard. On the Lafitte Corridor, “you do have to cross over streets, but not very many,” Everson said.
That’s because as a railroad track, the street grid was built around it. And before that, the strip was a canal dug by the Spanish to connect the French Quarter — where a turning basin became Basin Street — to Bayou St. John.
Besides the trail, other possible uses for the linear park are still wide open, he said.
“By getting involved, people will be able to have a say in how the greenway is built,” Everson said. “They’ll have a much more informed say if they actually come on the walk.”
Some of the groups that have expressed interest in using the linear park are a volleyball league, soccer players and skateboarders, who would like a skate park. A charter school could be located on a piece of the land in Treme.
“There could be community gardens. There could be farmers’ markets. The sky is really the limit,” Everson said.
The number of people turning out for the hike has grown every year. This year, the group is doing something new: Instead of hiking as one large group, participants will break into groups of 15 and be led by Greenway Ambassadors, people trained to answer questions about the history of the strip and what’s planned for its future.
Also new this year: activity stations along the greenway. PlayWorks, playNOLA and Mid-City Volleyball each will be hosting activities along the way.
Hikers will break for lunch at Massey’s Outdoor Outfitters on South Carrollton, courtesy of Parkway Bakery and Rouse’s. Then they’ll continue to Canal Boulevard, where buses will pick them up to return them to Armstrong Park.
Hikers should come prepared, Everson said. “There will be overgrown areas. I wouldn’t wear flip-flops. Depending on the weather, it might be advisable to bring an umbrella. It might be advisable to bring sunblock.”
Participation is free and lunch is included. But hikers are asked to register in advance. Go to folc-nola.org to sign up.