In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans, La., was awarded a Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant to transform a wide, three-mile canal and former rail corridor into the Lafitte Greenway, an urban oasis for bicyclists, pedestrians and park lovers. When complete, the greenway will connect half a dozen neighborhoods in the heart of the Big Easy, bookended by the iconic French Quarter and one of New Orleans’s gems, City Park.
As with all trail projects, engaging and empowering residents and community-based groups is essential in the planning process. By helping to establish Friends of Lafitte Corridor (FOLC), a burgeoning advocacy group for the greenway, and adopting the Lafitte Greenway as a project of the Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), RTC boosted local capacity to inform and involve community members in the development of the corridor.
In partnership with FOLC, RTC developed a Greenway Ambassadors program to equip local advocates with knowledge about the corridor and greenway planning process, fostering a core group of community leaders to help educate and involve neighbors. Through the Metropolitan Grants Program, RTC also worked closely with the Urban Conservancy and local design firm, FutureProof, to create and install several public art installations called “Green Rooms” to generate public awareness about the greenway. Finally, RTC produced a community assessment, providing recommendations for design and infrastructure, greenway attractions and suggestions for creating and sustaining interest in the Greenway and its benefits.