A New Golf Facility or a Green Space? New Orleans Has a Brand-New Storm Shaping Up

ASBA members who have fond memories of New Orleans will find this story interesting: a new golf course is set to go in just two miles from the French Quarter. Only problem is that it will take the place of a city park.

And if that isn’t a hurricane-strength storm in the making, we don’t know what is.

ABC News reports that the professional-caliber course, only two miles from the French Quarter, is being set in one of the nation’s oldest and largest public parks. The plan is stirring up an outcry over the post-Katrina gentrification of New Orleans.

The $13 million course, designed by prominent golf architect Rees Jones, could be hosting the Zurich Classic, a PGA Tour event now held outside the city, by 2020, if supporters get their way. Park officials are banking on attracting a lot of golfers, projecting 24,000 rounds of golf — at prices ranging between $45 and $125 — will be played there after three years. And that, they say, is something the city really needs.

Critics, however, are of the opinion that the combination of high-dollar golf and PGA Tour crowds is all wrong for the public park, and refer to it as a way of robbing the city of much-needed green space to serve only a specific clientele.

The ABC News story notes there’s much more to the debate than sports income vs. green space preservation, however:

“The history of the new course goes back a decade to Hurricane Katrina and the demolition of nearby public housing.

In remaking City Park after Katrina, officials took advantage of the storm’s damage to shrink the space dedicated to golf from four courses to two — a modest 18-hole course and the new championship course.

Unlike most public parks, City Park receives a small portion of its operating money from taxes and instead relies on fees and other sources of self-generated income. The park is using $7.6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to pay for part of the construction cost of the premier course.

To fund the rest, developers and park officials came up with a plan to couple the demolition of a nearby public housing development, the St. Bernard housing complex, with the creation of the PGA Tour-ready course.

And that didn’t sit well at all.

Construction of the 220-acre course started in March with a fence that dismayed people who’d come to enjoy the wide-open, overgrown spaces the abandoned courses had become after Katrina struck in 2005.

Then the protests started. A group called the City Park for Everyone Coalition filed a lawsuit against the park, alleging it had violated wetlands protection laws by digging up the golf course and filling in wetlands. In July, the Army Corps of Engineers agreed with the plaintiffs and said the park had illegally removed a 1.3-acre area of wetlands.

The need for a new golf course vs. the need for green space is going to be a long and unpleasant battle. ASBA members will have to wait for a future visit to find out how it ends.

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