Parks For All is advocating for a comprehensive, professional, equitable and actionable greenspace master plan. As part of the new millage structure that voters passed in May 2019, the four millage recipients - the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), Parks and Parkways, Audubon Nature Institute and City Park - signed a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with the City that commits the signers to a “city-wide parks, green/open space, and recreation master plan … by a qualified third party with national park experience.” Parks for All is leading an effort to make sure this happens in a timely way. The mandate to create the Master Plan dovetails with the administration’s renewed focus on New Orleans’s relationship with water, and viewing water management as a sustainability issue as well as a quality-of-life issue. Green space is a critical part of water management. This strengthens the imperative to create a high-quality Master Plan for the use of our open space.
At least 15 public-sector entities control open space in the city; in addition, a number of private-sector groups own or manage open space. (We have a list of the public-sector entities in the Appendix to the White Paper, which you can download below.) A “Master Plan” that does not contemplate the city as a whole will be partial and inadequate. A comprehensive planning process should engage all the organizations that control the City’s greenspace, along with community leaders and the public.
On both a national and international basis, the last generation has seen a great deal of thought and experimentation about how to make cities greener, more livable and more sustainable. New Orleans can draw on this knowledge by engaging a consultant at the forefront of this thought and experimentation to develop the Master Plan. The Master Plan will importantly affect the future of the City, and the life of its citizens. This is not the time to fall back on the “usual suspects,” or to create a Master Plan by the seat of our pants.
New Orleans is a diverse city. Any parks, open space and recreation Master Plan needs to take into account all of its citizens, and the planning process need to take into account input from all around the city. Much of our existing greenspace abuts low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in New Orleans East and along the lakefront. Maximizing its sustainability value and amenity value for its neighbors should be a priority for the Master Plan.
There is no reason for the City to spend its scarce resources to create another volume for its bookshelf. A quality Master Plan will include actionable next steps, priorities, milestone goals and mechanisms to ensure accountability for delivering on the Plan. Some of the water management issues need to be addressed right away. Other aspects are longer term; the Master Plan can provide timetables and guideposts for them.
To make sure the Master Plan is comprehensive, professional, equitable and actionable – and to make sure it addresses the City’s water-management needs – the principal responsibility for the Master Plan should rest with the City itself. The Master Plan has the potential to be a signature accomplishment of the current administration that will improve the lives of New Orleanians for decades to come.
The CEA ensures that the Master Plan will be funded if necessary by millage proceeds. In addition, there are a number of sources of grant funding that the City can tap into to pay for the Master Plan. Funding for the Master Plan does not have to crowd out other line items in the City’s budget.
Parks for All has prepared a detailed White Paper (click below to download) about how best to create the Master Plan; the White Paper addresses (1) the selection process to identify the consultant, including the composition of a selection committee, (2) the qualifications of the consultant, including their suggested planning process, and (3) the subject areas that the plan will cover.
New Orleans has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an enduring guide for a sustainable and high quality-of-life future. In 20 years, New Orleans can be an example of how to create excellent public open space for its citizens. We need to start now with the Master Plan.
Please join with us in encouraging the Mayor and the City Council to make the Master Plan a priority, and to set in motion the appropriate processes to make it happen.
On March 25, 2019, Parks For All hosted a free public forum: "Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Planning: International Best Practices and their Application to New Orleans." Kurt Culbertson, PhD, FASLA, FAICP, offered perspectives gained through 40 years of experience in the planning and design of park and recreation systems and reflections on the application of these lessons
to the needs of New Orleans. Graphics by Design Media