An update from City Park CEO, Bob Becker
New Orleans is known for its hospitality, energy, vibrancy and, most importantly, the people who call the Crescent City home. Without the help from our volunteers, neighbors, and donors, City Park would not be the long-standing urban retreat it is today. The residents of our region and State are just as important to City Park as the Park is to them.
It’s important we showcase all City Park has been able to offer our city before and during this pandemic. The Park has remained open to the public in many aspects in the last 6 months, giving residents a place to exercise, see friends at a safe social distance, and reintroduce themselves to the natural beauty of the Park. Nevertheless, we want everyone to know, like so many, it has not been easy for us.
90% of the Park’s annual operating budget is derived from self-generated activities. The pandemic and resulting restrictions eliminated nearly all of these activities. We have taken precautions, made necessary improvements, and faced difficult choices to keep the Park operational. We’ve had to furlough all part-time employees, reduce the full time staff by one-third, cut salaries, eliminate overtime and retirement contributions, and cancel contracts.
With many of the revenue-generating attractions in the Park closed and the above staffing measures we have taken, it has challenged our ability to maintain the Park to the standard it is known for, even as our citizens continue to utilize the outdoor spaces as a respite during the pandemic.
We have been forced to use reserve funds built over the last 15 years to continue to maintain the Park, recognizing New Orleanians need a familiar, safe place to explore. We’re doing okay, but we will continue to tap into those reserve funds without support from the State and they will run out in the coming months.
In the concluded Louisiana Legislative regular and special sessions, the Park requested $5 million in state funding to offset the loss of our revenue streams, as the State did after Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, this did not come to pass. We are actively continuing to meet with important stakeholders, business and civic leaders, and potential partners to develop solutions to sustain us through this challenging period.
As we work to reach that goal of obtaining additional operational funds from the State, we’re asking our citizens to help us sustain the quality to which they have become accustomed. There are several ways to help: donate, volunteer, learn more, and advocate for us. You can learn more on how you can help by visiting our website here.
We remain optimistic and know brighter days are ahead for all of us, and in that vein, we are excited to share that on Monday, September 25 we will announce exciting news about Celebration in the Oaks. This beloved annual event, though different this year, will happen and we look forward to bringing the joy of this New Orleans holiday tradition to our region once again.
We are thankful for your support, whether it be your time, a donation, or by picking up trash while you’re in the Park. We’re here for each other and we are honored to be able to care for this incredible resource for our community. Stay tuned, stay plugged in, and lend a hand if you can.
With tremendous gratitude,
Robert W. Becker, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
New Orleans City Park
In the news:
WWLTV: City Park taking a major hit to finances due to COVID restrictions
WDSU: City Park struggles with coronavirus restrictions.
FOX8: City Park financial woes. The pandemic leaves businesses, people and cities struggling financially and that includes City Park.
WGNO: City Park Faces Financial Issues Due To The Pandemic.