The Long Green Mile (or Two)

Credit Nord2 2 Min Min
lafittegreenway.org

 

To say that the Lafitte Greenway is a well-kept secret would be an overstatement, given that an estimated 1000 people use it daily. However, major physical enhancements as well as new programs have been unveiled during the pandemic period, and unquestionably some of these have yet to show up on the community’s collective radar.

The 2.6 mile linear park, stretching from Treme to Mid-City, opened in 2015 after nearly a decade of planning and development. While the Greenway is owned by the City of New Orleans, and operated under the aegis of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), much of the programming, visioning and operations are performed by the park’s official nonprofit partner, Friends of Lafitte Greenway.

As recounted by Executive Director Sophie Harris Vorhoff, “Friends was founded in 2006, and we completed the Greenway Master Plan in 2013.” While the process of designing and establishing the park took longer than anticipated, it has been a success in every way – and a tremendous asset during COVID times.

“The Greenway has been busier than ever,” noted Harris Vorhoff. “The need for the space has been greater than ever.”

A wide variety of free community programs are offered along the Greenway, including outdoor fitness classes, youth sports and walking groups. At various points along the way, there are sports fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, fitness parks and a swimming pool. Facilities such as the Lemann playgrounds and the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center augment the Greenway offerings. While some of these predate the opening of the park, other installations are an outgrowth of the original trail.

In addition to increased community facilities, Harris Vorhoff noted that “the Greenway has spurred a huge growth in small business development.” From apartments and condos to coffee shops and restaurants, “the development is hugely important for the Greenway’s success,” she added, pointing out that having more people on and around the trail “makes the experience in the Greenway safer and more interesting, more walkable.”

On major addition is the Greenway Station, located in the former brake tag station and parking area near Bayou St. John. “This used to be an industrial corridor, a railroad corridor, and these kinds of city facilities made sense there,” observed Harris Vorhoff. “Now the city has made a $1.5 million renovation to an open-air pavilion, where we have a farmer’s market, a community space with art installations and a stage with seating.”

The Greenway Station opened one week before the COVID lockdown, which promptly curtailed most of the activities. As vaccination rates go up and the pandemic eases, the space is again available to the community, and programming is coming back to life.

No activity at the Station is more ambitious and inclusive than the upcoming Greenway Supernova, which will occur December 9 through 11. This event debuted in smaller form last year, and – while free to the community – replaces the Greenway’s previous major fundraising events that are still not really viable due to COVID protocols.

Supernova is highlighted by art installations around the Station. Most are lit, and according to Harris Vorhoff, “this year the event will have art vendors, food trucks and live music. It’s a way to celebrate our local arts, culture and community.”

The Supernova Star Business Program rewards businesses that support the event by providing regular supporters with “doubloominaries”, which in turn drive customers to the sponsoring businesses. All in all, the event is an exciting, inspiring way to bring community together and support this unique and vital community organization.

Supernova and virtually all the Greenway programming is free, yet Friends of Lafitte Greenway attracts sufficient individual and business support to sustain operations and continue to expand the vision for the park. A new nature meadow is nearing completion, and a demonstration bioswale will teach individual property owners another water management technique that they can install themselves. And ultimately, there is another half-mile of park planned, to extend the Greenway to connect with the Canal Transit Hub.

While many facilities typically must charge admission and/or programming fees in order to survive, community support makes this linear park a rare exception. Said Harris Vorhoff, “We’ve learned that people give to the Greenway just because they care so much about the space.”

 

Information about Greenway programs, facilities and Supernova can be found at www.lafittegreenway.org. Additional programming information is available at www.nordc.org.

 

 

 

Categories: Neighborhood Biz