NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
The New Orleans City Park Improvement Association will consider amendments to the City Park Master Plan in the area roughly bounded by Harrison, Wisner, Zachery Taylor and Magnolia Dr. to (1) reflect a change in the designation of a portion of the old East Golf Course to “D” Passive Recreation, (2) create an “H” Natural Resource designation following the center lagoon, (3) change the designation of the existing Quadraplex and rugby field to “A” Active Recreation/Sports, (4) change the designation of the existing sports fields on Scout Island to “A” Active Recreation/Sports and (5) provide for other technical modifications associated therewith, at a Public Hearing on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at 3:30pm at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in the Botanical Garden in City Park. The amendments can be viewed at the City Park Administration Building at 1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana 70124.
Please click here to see the 2 maps (the amendments).
Consideration of Amendments to the Park Master Plan
The Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association annually reviews and periodically amends a Master Plan for the development of the park. (Act 865, Section of the Regular Session of the 1982 Louisiana Legislature).
The Park’s Master Plan was adopted on March 29, 2005 and subsequently amended in November 2007, May 2009, March 2011 and February of 2014. The goal of the plan was and is, to make City Park the premiere urban park in the nation and to insure that the Park is financially sound so that it can be properly maintained and offer its extensive facilities and programs to the public.
The amendments to the Master Plan under consideration (1.) address’ land uses on portions of the former East Golf Course, generally bounded by Harrison, Wisner, Zachery Taylor and Diagonal Drive, and (2.) changes to the land use designations for land on Scout Island.
Background: Previous amendments to the Master Plan deleted golf use from a portion of the Park generally bounded by Diagonal, Harrison, Wisner and Zachery Taylor which used to contain portions of the old East Golf Course. At the time of the deletion of golf uses no definitive plan was available to guide the development of this area in the future. Therefore this property is currently designated “J Open Areas” on the land use plan element of the Master Plan. “J” generally permits a wide variety of activities including sports facilities, festivals, urban farming, biking, jogging trails and other similar uses. Scout Island is designated “H” Natural Resource Area which would limit activities and uses to those that preserve and enhance passive uses. There are currently sports fields on Scout Island which have been there for many years.
In October and November of 2016, the Park held two workshops open to the general public to present and discuss potential uses of the land. These workshops also included Scout Island in an effort to be comprehensive in our approach to analyzing adjacent areas which could be affected by decisions on the former golf course site. In addition to the two workshops, a web based survey was also opened to allow the general public to express their views. Over two hundred people attended the workshops and nearly a thousand responses were received to the survey. Consultants to the Park, taking input from the first workshop, prepared three illustrative drawings to better express how various alternative uses could be imagined on the study site.
While a great number of potential uses were put forth for the former golf property both at the workshops and in the survey, they generally boiled down to two broad categories. Those participants who favored a more active use of the property with sports fields and other active uses, and those who favored a more passive use of the property with low impact uses. Similarly, the opinions on Scout Island uses were also varied again with some participants favoring leaving the current sports fields intact and others advocating their removal and relocation to the former golf site. Many other comments were also received on the Grow Dat Youth Farm, Disc Golf, parking, cross country racing, and on potential commercial uses.
After consideration of all the comments received as well as the long term implications of use changes in this area of the Park, the following represents the analysis and recommendations of Management and the Board’s Planning, Architectural & Engineering Committee.
Proposed changes to the plan
1. Reclassify the area of the old East Golf Course from “J” Open Areas to “D” Passive Recreation and a portion of the area following the lagoon from “J” to “H” Natural Resource area and change the designation of the existing Quadraplex and rugby field from “J” to “A” Active Recreation.
While the entire area under current consideration comprises approximately 255 acres, the area previously occupied by the old golf course totals approximately 90 acres. Currently only disc golf has a regular presence on the property. This area has hosted a variety of temporary uses such as cross country races, movie locations and art exhibits. Discussions at the public workshops centered on whether this area should host only passive land uses such as biking and walking trails, open and forested areas, lagoons and some support uses such as shelters or bathrooms, or whether the area should also contain sports fields, festival sites, and other active recreation uses as Is now permitted in our current Master Plan.
The following is a summary of the pros and cons of designating the area for passive uses and designating the area for more active uses.
Pros for allowing only Passive Uses
• There is significant public support to limit the former golf course site to passive uses.
• The Park’s current plan combines Couturie Forest and Scout Island as passive, natural areas totaling approximately 68 acres. Should the 90 acre of the former golf course land be combined with Couturie Forest and the land on Scout Island recommended to remain in the Natural Resource category, land in the plan devoted to passive/natural areas would more than double to approximately 150 acres, a substantial increase.
• The current site has extensive tree cover as well as wide open spaces thus providing a varied landscape.
• Regional parks are the size they are because they can accommodate a variety of landscapes. As a passive area, this land would be substantially different from other areas of the park which are devoted to active recreational and cultural uses.
• Restricting active recreation uses may reduce capital and operating cost to some degree.
• Some parking areas exist to support passive uses.
Cons of allowing only Passive Uses
• As a large urban regional park which receives no direct public tax support for its operations (the park receives state tax dollars from those citizens who play the slot machines at racetracks in the state) and must raise 90% of its operating dollars from the activities in the park, land is the principal resource available to generate operating dollars. Removing 90 acres from consideration for permanent uses that could be used to generate income (sports activities, festivals, commercial uses like fitness centers and food and beverage outlets for example) represents a loss of revenue opportunity for the future.
• Contrary to some views, the concept that because an area is left for predominantly passive uses, that it has no substantial operating cost associated with it, is not correct. All park areas have to have security, maintenance, trash collection, grass cutting, tree care, pest control and other services. This space will as well but will have minimum income generated on the land to support those services.
• As previously mentioned the site is a former golf course. Redeveloping the area by removing some cart paths, additional tree planting, regrading certain areas, widening lagoons to hold additional storm water, etc. will be a significant cost, although it is possible to spread the cost over time.
• Limited parking exists.
Pros for allowing active recreation uses
• The Park has significant demand for sports fields of all types as well as other types of active recreation uses such as beach volleyball and a variety of extreme sports. This 90 acres would provide land to address those needs.
• Allowing active permanent uses allows the opportunity to generate income for the park’s operations.
• There is sufficient land for both sports fields as well as for parking to support those uses.
• The area already has some permanent sport uses such as Pan American Stadium and some temporary uses such as the Cross Country course.
Cons for allowing active recreation uses
• Utilizing land for active uses effectively removes the last large area remaining in the park for passive uses.
• It is likely that a substantial investment would have to be made in additional parking facilities.
• Significant investment in basic utility infrastructure would be necessary.
• Depending on use and exact location some traffic impacts could be possible.
Many of the participants in our public outreach process recommended leaving the area of the former golf course for passive recreation activities. Management and the Board’s Planning Committee concur. There is a tremendous opportunity to create a very special area unlike any other area in the Park. This area should be planned and developed for passive/open area uses which would give people an important alternative to the more active areas of the park. This passive site would permit non-structured, casual activities with minimal impact to the natural habitat. This area could offer restorative benefits and foster appreciation and understanding of open space and its benefits. It is compatible with passive uses such as picnic areas, fishing, and other activities that occasionally occupy passive recreation space. The “D” Passive Recreation category refers to non-structured activities which require minimal specialized parkland development and which are compatible with passive uses.
The designation of “H” Natural Resource area roughly following the current lagoon will allow efforts to protect and improve this unique habitat which currently flourishes adjacent to this water body.
The Quadraplex and Rugby fields should be reclassified “A” Active Sports in recognition of the current use.
No changes are recommended to the current designation along Zachery Taylor from its current “J” classification. It would permit the current Grow Dat Urban Farm as well as allow a potential expansion at a later date. The designation would also permit sports activities in an area directly adjacent to an interstate highway.
2. Changes to land use designations for Scout Island
The principal land use issue pertaining to Scout Island is whether the current sports fields should remain where they have been for many years and /or expand or should be removed in line with the current master plan. If they were to be removed and replaced the most logical location would be on the Wisner side of the study area in proximity to Pan American Stadium. The following is a summary of the pros and cons of leaving the fields on Scout Island or relocating them to an area in proximity to Pan American Stadium.
Pros of leaving the current fields on Scout Island
• The fields are already established and no trees need to be removed. If a third field was constructed it could be accomplished with minimal tree removal.
• The fields are on an island which makes it much easier to control access and security. It is also much easier to hold different kinds of temporary events (Voodoo Fest was held there several times) on Scout Island because it is an island.
• The current fields are connected by a bridge to other soccer/sports fields on either side of Marconi making a sport field complex.
• There is ample space to construct expanded and improved parking.
• Constructing new fields adjacent to Pan American Stadium would involve substantial cost and require the removal of some substantial trees.
• Fields adjacent to Pan American would introduce new sports facilities into an area not previously used for that purpose and reduce the land available for passive recreation activities.
• Property owners across the Bayou from Wisner have objected to the introduction of active athletic facilities along Wisner.
Cons of leaving the current fields on Scout Island
• If the fields are lighted in the future it could negatively impact wildlife habitat.
• Current users leave excessive amounts of trash on the island.
• Not compliant with the current Master Plan which has the fields in a natural resource category.
After evaluating the pros and cons and public input, Management and the Board’s Planning Committee recommend leaving the current sports fields on Scout Island and therefore changing their designation from “H” Natural Resource Area to “A” Active Recreation/Sports to recognize their current use. We recommend no change in designation to the remainder of Scout Island and Goat Island thus leaving them in the “H” Natural Resource category. We believe that the areas of Scout Island not taken up with sports and athletic fields and facilities can be maintained in their natural state. This would permit camping on the island to continue.
Permanent vs. intermittent uses
While not a part of the formal consideration of Master Plan Amendments, a number of temporary or intermittent uses were mentioned as part of the public outreach process. Therefore some comments on this matter are appropriate.
In many areas of the Park, uses occur which are not permanent but occur on an infrequent basis. Examples include road races, movie shoot locations, fitness activities like Pilates or Zumba classes, temporary parking, among others.
In the study area, several intermittent uses have been and continue to be held. These include movie shoot locations, art presentations like the Lightbox theatre and cross country track meets. (Cross Country meets are held in the study area for approximately 10 Saturdays a year for approximately 6 hours a day. Clearly they are not a permanent land use but a temporary one). Intermittent uses should be recognized as appropriate for the study but must be laid out or held so as to offer minimal disruption to the permanent uses which occupy the site for the vast majority of the time. The City Lawn area shown in the illustrative drawings as taking advantage of a large area with minimal tree cover, could be used for hot air balloon or kite flying events, parade ground activities or limited art installations. None of these sorts of uses would detract from the permanent passive uses recommended for the site. These temporary uses also provide some opportunity to generate income on the property which would help defray maintenance expenses. As an example, temporary movie locations often pay a significant site location fee for permission to film in the Park.
Expansion of Grow Dat Youth Farm
We have previously recommended that the Master Plan Land Use designation for the area along Zachery Taylor from Pan American Stadium to the Zachery Taylor underpass remain it its current “J” designation. This would permit the potential expansion of the youth farm.
The farm wishes to expand its current 7.5 acre site to a total of approximately 16.5 acres including the old south course clubhouse and caddy shack. Before a decision can be made about the expansion request, the Park must consider a variety of factors including, extent of land and facilities being requested, and opportunity costs for some other park purpose, financial issues, the relocation of current equipment stored in the old clubhouse building and several others.
Grow Dat has achieved the goals the Park originally envisioned for the use of the property. Management believes there is an opportunity to accommodate some expansion of their existing site while still preserving options for other uses.
Since no change in land use designations are recommended and since the farm could expand under the current categories, the Park will begin detailed discussions with Grow Dat on their request following consideration of the Master Plan amendments being considered in this analysis.
Summary of Recommendations
• Change the “J” Open Areas designation on the old east Golf Course to “D” Passive Recreation.
• Designate a corridor roughly following the existing lagoon to “H” Natural Resource in recognition of this unique area.
• Change the “J” designation of the quadraplex and rugby field to “A” Active Recreation/Sports in recognition of their existing use.
• Change the existing sports fields’ designation on Scout Island from “H” to “A” in recognition of their existing use.
• Make no changes to the “J” designation in the area adjacent to Zachery Taylor.
The changes in acreage which reflect the recommendations are listed below.
“D” Passive Recreation: 14 acres
“J” Open Areas, suitable for festivals/sports : 198 acre
“H” Natural Resource: 70 acres
“A” Active Recreation: 66 acres
“D” Passive Recreation: 91 acres
“J” Open Areas, suitable for festivals/sports: 80 acres
“H” Natural Resource: 79 acres
“A” Active Recreation: 97 acres
Approval of these changes will allow for the development of a detailed plan for the passive and natural resource areas which should address tree planting, lagoon enhancements, path reconfiguration if necessary, drainage and storm water holding improvements, removing invasive and any accessory uses such as shelters or bathrooms. Following preparation of a detailed plan a significant fund raising effort will have to be undertaken to implement the plan.
Finally, approval of these changes will require technical amendments to the plan including changes to the maps, descriptions, and tables, including adding festivals and sports activities to description of “J” which were inadvertently left off previous descriptions.
Information from 2016 Public Meetings:
New Orleans City Park would like to thank everyone who participated in the public meetings and online survey.
City Park Management will review the results of the workshops, on-line survey, other correspondence, and the factors that go into making Master Plan decisions. They will develop recommendations and review them with the City Park Board of Commissioners. A final recommendation and proposals for Master Plan Amendments will then be subject to a public hearing and board action.
These steps are anticipated to occur during the third quarter of 2017.
Questions? Feel free to email John Hopper at email@example.com.
To view information on the first public meeeting on this topic click here.
To view information on the second public meeting on this topic click here.