Photos by Charlie London
Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made a special stop in New Orleans during his visit on Wednesday.
He announced that the Lafitte Corridor has been chosen as a priority project for scarce federal funds.
Trains once carried cargo from the river to the lake on it, but it could soon carry people.
“Right now, this is an abandoned rail corridor. It’s basically just wasted space,” said Bart Everson, president of the group Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.
The Lafitte Corridor runs 3.1 miles through the city and is now slated for the development of a hiking and biking trail.
“We fully expect to break ground on phase one in 2013. So, in short order we can actually expect to see a trail being built. Now, it’ll be a very basic trail to begin with,” Everson said.
The project already has $7.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds from Katrina.
“Because this project has been selected as one of the seven priority projects in the United States of America, and that’s a pretty big place, you will have priority in the funding even during these tough times,” Salazar said.
It puts the Lafitte Corridor on the short list for federal dollars as part of the “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative.
“We don’t know what the dollars will be at this point, but it will add to the assistance and the funding that we’re getting,” said Councilwoman Susan Guidry.
Even the hope of additional funding is welcome for those who have fought for years now to make New Orleans a great place to live, bike and even hike.
article below by Alex Woodward of GAMBIT WEEKLY
Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, met with Friends of the Lafitte Corridor today on the banks of Bayou St. John, flanked by a post office and Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Salazar announced the Obama Administration’s prioritized commitment to the to the Lafitte Corridor project via the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, led by the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council. It also partners with local communities, specifically for outdoor and parks projects like the Lafitte Corridor. (To clarify a previous post: Salazar’s mention of $7 million is from an already-in-place Community Development Block Grant from the Louisiana Recovery Association, allocated to the Lafitte Corridor.)
“This is part of the revitalization of New Orleans,” Salazar told Gambit. The project will break ground in 2013.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar walks along the future Lafitte Corridor with Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.
Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) group advocating for the project, said despite the project being “down in the weeds,” the “greenway” will “reclaim the space left behind,” rejuvenating a corridor formerly used as a shipping canal, a railway, and now for drainage, and open the space to its communities and visitors. It has the potential, Everson said, “to reconnect the city to its natural landscape.” Community meetings on the project’s design plans wrapped up this year.
More than 400 million people visit the United States’ 397 parks each year, Salazar said. “We are the envy of the world.” The administration’s three goals through the initiative are “preserving the crown jewels of America,” like the Everglades; protecting and preserving the country’s rivers systems; and, where the Lafitte applies, preserving the “great urban parks,” one of President Barack Obama’s highest priorities, Salazar said.
The Lafitte project is one of only seven parks projects nationally the administration is taking on. “Literally thousands could’ve been taken on,” Salazar said, adding the administration will work closely with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office and New Orleans City Council. (District A councilmember Susan Guidry said she wants the greenway to connect communities to the rebirth of Lake Pontchartrain.) The National Parks Service also will promote the greenway nationally.
“We don’t quit,” Salazar said to the crowd. “The best days of New Orleans are still ahead of us. … Ten years from now (the greenway) will be one of the iconic places (in New Orleans) and will look very different from what it does today.”