Opinion
 

City Park officials are ignoring the public as they proceed with golf course plans

Users of an overgrown part of City Park were stunned to find a fence built around a portion that park officials plan to use for a new golf course.

Courtesy of City Park for Everyone Coalition

Users of an overgrown part of City Park were stunned to find a fence built around a portion that park officials plan to use for a new golf course.

There is something insidious about fences. These man-made enclosures are a declaration of control; they create a hierarchical structure through limiting access, where there was once freedom. Jean-Jacques Rousseau explored the relationships of men in “Social Contract.” He found that fences engendered the notion of private property and led to the corruption of man’s essentially good nature,

Recently, a miles-long chain-link fence was erected around the wild northern portion of City Park, earmarked for development as a golf course by a closed decision-making process. There are many reasons why this golf course is a bad choice for the region: ecology, hydrology, financial sustainability, countervailing recreational trends — but I would like to highlight one particular aspect of the choice that is underappreciated: public access. Parks in contemporary urban life are the closest things we have to a shared resource. Like ‘commons’ of yore, they provide an undefined space for collective activity that has no equal, held in trust by the public, for the public. And by ‘public’ I do not mean strictly homo sapiens, but all flora and fauna.

Let’s pause for a moment and discuss the myth of the “tragedy of the commons.” This myth is frequently cited as the reason why collective assets are doomed to fail, because users want to maximize self-interest. The phrase, which stems from Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay of the same name, has cast a long and ominous shadow upon attempts to preserve collective assets. Despite a total lack of historical evidence, this hypothesis has worked its way into the public imagination, providing opportunists with a powerful tool to advance an agenda of privatization. Ironically, the factual evidence shows that the commons were lost for precisely the opposite reason than what Hardin speculated.

Instead of commons being pillaged through neglectful shared ownership, the commons were systematically destroyed through a process of ‘takings’ by profiteers. Karl Polyani, in “The Great Transformation,” documents how the commons in England were subdivided through an expulsive process of removal by landholders who realized that they could monetize their royal claims through consolidation of grazing fields through forceful expulsion of sharecroppers.

Despite history, the polluted myth continues to hold popular imagination hostage, and it continues to deteriorate the bonds of public ownership.

A massive fence has circumscribed a benevolently neglected portion of the park, which in the years since Hurricane Katrina became an unexpected refuge. The diversity of native and migratory species that have claimed it as home in the past 10 years is incredible to behold. The ecosystem is restoring itself to a balance point where the bayous are actually healthy, supporting a range of species seldom seen within an urban environment. The diversity of human activities inspired by this unbounded common is similarly difficult to catalog. Meandering adaptations of Oscar Wilde plays, campfire shows, tree houses, Equinox ceremonies, voodoo rites, art installations, wildlife walks with school children, kite flying, urban farming, casual dog walks, treasure hunts, a place for self-reflection. It’s all there for us.

The gifts of a natural disaster are few to count, but the wilding of City Park’s former golf courses is definitely one of them. Amid the wreckage of Katrina, City Park’s golf courses took extensive damage, but it has bestowed us with a natural refuge in the heart of the city that is now a collective treasure.

The recent enclosure of this refuge was a shock to many. Park officials say it was all in the plans, and that we shouldn’t be surprised. Many of us didn’t know the value of this accidental treasure until access was abruptly revoked by a fence. People mobilized quickly, and the public outcry at the City Park Board of Directors meeting recently was vociferous. However, the Board’s reaction was vacuous, providing no response to comments or concerns.

How can this collective refuge be treated so arbitrarily? There must be an exploration of alternatives. A golf course is a massive taking of public land for the benefit of the few. Once built, there will be no freedom of access: the land will be reserved for one exclusive use, for a selective cohort of well-heeled individuals. You want to evaluate the “highest and best use” for this land? Surely there are more valuable metrics than economics. Access is a universal metric, use for all, arrived at by an inclusive decision-making process, and supported through shared stewardship.

Frankly, the Board’s decision to proceed with a nostalgic golf course makes it difficult to see how the City Park leadership is serving the best interests of New Orleanians. Access trumps dollars. Golf is a losing proposition. We demand a response.

Opponents of the golf course are holding a rally today at 4 p.m. More information is available through this Facebook page.

 

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • Cmb6091

    Well written article. I wish there was a way to have both an inner-city refuge and rebuilding what was there before Katrina. Having to choose between the two, I would choose the later. I recommend the author visit the existing wildlife refuges and wonderful nature parks across south La. and the one located 10 minutes from the cbd. In fact, NOE could benefit if individuals like the author took the initiative and put together a plan to create an inner-city refuge. Therein lies the problem. The author and supporters of keeping city park have done nothing to either develop such a refuge or take steps post Katrina to conserve city park’s devestated golf course as such a refuge. It is not as if it was a secret that city park intended to redevelop the gold course. However, it was not until the fences went up that the author and similar minded people actually voiced their opinion on the matter. You cannot be purposely oblivious to everything going on around you that you deem “not interesting” and then demand something change when it is in its 11th hour and you realize the changes that are coming.

  • FQ Resident

    While not a close neighbor of City Park nor a golfer, I did witness the remarkable comeback of the park. It’s truly outstanding what the City Park Board has done since Katrina. As they rely on funds generated by the park and on generous donations from residents and civic leader it only makes sense to restore that funding stream – golf courses existed before Katrina in the Park. This article does the Board a disservice – we all should be grateful for what we now have.

  • LilMsPoBoy

    What a thoughtful and well written article. As one of the people that appreciates the natural beauty that Katrina restored to that portion of the park as well as the restoration of a balanced ecology within an urban confine, I feel that having an open and transparent process when deciding how to manage publicly owned parks is of the utmost importance. Other comments recommend that residents drive “10 minutes from the cbd” to New Orleans East to visit that refuge if they want nature, apparently completely blind to the fact that an overwhelming number of New Orleans residents don’t own personal vehicles, in fact, “Out of 297 metropolitan areas in the U.S., New Orleans ranked fourth in
    the proportion of its households without car access.” (“Access to Cars in New Orleans” Alan Berube; Brookings Institution)

    It’s this kind of blindness, unawareness, and privilege that led to the very closed decision with no input from the general public to commit to installing a (Most likely) unprofitable and unnecessary high end golf course in a space that has been utilized more by the general public more than it ever was before in order to get federal funding. (Use it or lose it!) It doesn’t matter that it’s a bad idea and that golf is a dying sport and this area is over-saturated with golf courses, all that matters to this self-nominated board making closed decisions is the chance to get some free money.

    This is truly a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Because they can get some of the money for free, they’re deciding to buy the fanciest golf course money can buy, even though it’s a totally pointless destruction of a natural habitat and every financial indicator points to it being a money pit. Gross.

  • LilMsPoBoy

    Also, if you think the nature refuge in NOE is “10 minutes from the cbd”, may I please borrow your Batmobile and/or hovercraft? Thanks.

  • KC

    I’m not sure the author realizes it, but this piece is a slap in the face to the board and all other New Orleanians who have worked tirelessly to rebuild City Park. Plans for the gold course have been years in the making and not kept under wraps, as the author suggests. Try a Google search. The park needs revenue and a golf course is a proven method of delivering funds for the support of the entire park’s operations. Alternatives exist, but where has the author been since Katrina? Why did he decide to write this piece only after the fences went up?

  • KC

    No input from the public? This has been talked about for the better part of a decade. Where have you been?

  • LilMsPoBoy

    I would guess that the answer to your query might be that most of us had no idea that the golf course was happening UNTIL the fences went up. That demonstrated that it quite obviously WAS NOT well known public information. I live near the park and had no idea. No signs were posted inviting public discourse.

    To answer your question, “In the dark” is probably where the author of this article was; as were most of the rest of us.

    This is my question to you, kind sir (or lady, or “other”). How is an additional golf course that does not exist yet a PROVEN source of revenue? How can a demonstrably declining elitist sport in America save an urban park when the region is already saturated with other golf courses that are barely making ends meet? Just curious.

    I patiently await your reply.

  • LilMsPoBoy

    I would guess that the answer to your query might be that most of us had no idea that the golf course was happening UNTIL the fences went up. That demonstrated that it quite obviously WAS NOT well known public information. I live near the park and had no idea. No signs were posted inviting public discourse.

    To answer your question, “In the dark” is probably where the author of this article was; as were most of the rest of us.

    This is my question to you, kind sir (or lady, or “other”). How is an additional golf course that does not exist yet a PROVEN source of revenue? How can a demonstrably declining elitist sport in America save an urban park when the region is already saturated with other golf courses that are barely making ends meet? Just curious.

    I patiently await your reply.

  • nickelndime

    ROBIN: Holy Crap Batman! I believe I heard LilMsPoBoy ask for our help!!!! BATMAN:You are correct, Robin. This looks like a 10-year problem in the making. Gear up, my BatFriend. We are on our way to the Pavillion….correct that, Robin. On our way to the Course. 03/14/2015 12:38 AM

  • KC

    As I stated, this process was not done under wraps. Here’s an article from 2011:
    http://www.nola.com/golf/index.ssf/2011/03/city_park_golf_course_project.html

    Another from 2013:
    http://www.nola.com/golf/index.ssf/2013/07/fema_okays_construction_of_new.html

    There are plenty more. Consult Google.com.

    As far as proven method of generating revenue, the courses used to account for 40% of the operating budget. This information is available on the park’s web site. You also have access to their financial statements.

    Also, New Olreans is not saturated with golf courses of this variety. This will be the only PGA caliber course in the city proper. It will be capable of hosting events like NCAA tournaments.

    You wanted them to inform you of all of this via plastic signs in the park? Really?

  • LilMsPoBoy

    Hey there! I actually took the time to read both of those articles and I happened to notice that nowhere is it mentioned that people could have public input or discourse. Both of the news articles that you posted report the golf courses as a done deal and don’t even insinuate that there is an option to not have a golf course. that is the whole point that I been trying to prove and that you keep ignoring with dated news articles that don’t prove your point.

    Look, I’m sure you’re nice person but you’re obviously set in your opinion . I do know how to use Google. I do know how to research things on the Internet. I think that you have been deluded and that you have an incorrect opinion. Obviously we will never agree. So I’m done with you. Have a nice life and continue with your delusions.

    I’ll pray for you.

  • juliemean

    i suggest using the course as you would otherwise, and openly disrupt progress and use of the course. plant trees all over that place!!!

  • nickelndime

    ROBIN: Holy Bat Crap, BatMan! LilMsPoBoy is on BatPernt. We are in Gotham again. BATMAN: You are correct, Robin. The public can read and by golly, we are going to make sure they know when they are being excluded. And we are not forgetting the Wisner Foundation either when those anti-bat fiends tied that woman up and stole the money. To the BatMobile, Robin. Quick(ly)! 03/14/2015 11:11 PM

  • nickelndime

    “The small things never did bother me.” (femme fatale nikita) 03/14/2015 11:14 PM

  • nolallc

    Actually, you state that “most of us had no idea.” The point that KC was trying to make by showing you the info from articles over the past several years is that the information was out there. Just because nola.com and the TP didn’t advertise a public meeting doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. If you need someone to put the writing literally on the wall for you to get through life then YOU are delusional.

    Sometimes we have to fight for transparency. Had you been paying attention maybe you could have started a protest a few years back and negotiated more space. Regardless, the reduction of golf (from 4 to 2 courses) has been in the park’s master plan since 2004. If you were a member of Friends of the Park (a way to support a park with very little govt assistance) you would know that. Not to mention, they made a bunch of announcements about the fence and groundbreaking in late January and early February in the media… My guess is that you were probably distracted by hot glue and feathers for a Mardi Gras costume and too busy to notice.

  • Aryno Wyrth

    Yup. Here’s a link to their membership page:

    http://www.friendsofcitypark.com/membership.htm

  • nolallc

    Your argument about a “PROVEN” source of revenue is puzzling. You may not be aware, but there is a very busy golf course that currently exists in City Park creating some revenue. We have another very busy course in New Orleans at Audubon. So I think there’s also some proof that golf is popular in New Orleans. It’s crowded/difficult to get tee times in those places so a need for municipal golf does exist. This isn’t some private developers scam on property in Minnesota where they can only play 5 months out of the year… with a bunch of McMansions that’s going to see foreclosures in a decade. This is an existing golf course space. Did you know that there were 4 course prior to 2005. One closed shortly before Katrina and the plan at that time was to convert the remaining 3 to 2. The details of the plan have changed a bit, but there has golf been in the park for over 100 years and it’s actually going to take up less space than ever. So I think pre-existing golf is proof that there is a demand and that it will be a source of revenue.

    New funds needed to be allocated for this project as much of the initial FEMA money was used on other capital projects in the park (Reception hall at Popp’s Fountain,tennis facility, renovations to Storyland, Botanical Garden, Pavillion of the Two Sisters, the Casino building. Adding the Great Lawn, City Putt, Great Lake loop, festival grounds and pavillion). This course would have been developed sooner had not all these other wonderful attributes been funded.

    I’m in the service industry as are a lot of my fellow golfers so watch what you say about it being an elitist sport. I resent the image of golfers that still resonates 30+ years after Caddyshack. The reality is in a town like New Orleans that people of all ages, races and economic background participate and enjoy the game. If you’re unsure go spend about a half hour in the parking lot at the driving range after work time…

  • LilMsPoBoy

    tl;dr. You in no way proved any points and threw out a lot of rhetoric. Golf is on the decline and it is an elitist sport. This is irrefutable. Golf is the exact opposite of basketball; one takes up a huge amount of space and natural resources and is overwhelmingly utilized by rich, white, men (THAT’S THE DEMOGRAPHIC, please don’t yell “Tiger Woods!” or “I HAVE BLACK FRIENDS THAT PLAY GOLF!!!”) It’s statistically irrelevant, even if these statements are true. Basketball, on the other hand, can be enjoyed by many more people and takes up a tiny footprint. Where are the 100 basketball courses that you could fit in half the size of 1 golf course?

    If you think this issue ISN’T racist or elitist, you’re not on my level and I won’t waste any more of my time. I don’t care if you’re the best golfing busboy out there, you’re not the typical golfer.

  • nickelndime

    This “post” is a summative comment that addresses a couple of posts. (1) We already have “inner-city refuges” – they are called the ‘HOOD (I ain’t kidding). (2) “Hot glue and feathers” are wildly fascinating to me and I too find them distracting – but in a good way – and it doesn’t hurt anybody. (3) I think any plan that relies on the word “MASTER” in its title smacks of elitism and serves to fool the general public that it has input – which it really doesn’t. (4) Nine years and 364 days does NOT A DECADE MAKE. So, I think somebody is rounding up to their advantage. (5) Any hobby or sport that requires more than two pieces of basic equipment to play is “elitist.” Ponies count as equipment. Streets do not. That is why basketball, baseball, and football will always be considered all-American sports and the finest measures of our American ideals of equality and freedom (especially in inner-city refuges)! 03/17/2015 8:31 PM

  • nolallc

    Look! You dropped your race card! Now I’ll drop mine… I forgot about the Bartholomew course in the East (named for the first African-American public golf course designer in the country). It’s cliental is predominantly black. Yes, you really did make me sink down to your level. Not sure if you’re aware, but in New Orleans black men are a large part of the DEMOGRAPHIC. And such is reflected in the NOLA golf community. In addition, that course is also home to a bald eagle’s nest. Those facts are irrefutable. Nature and golf go hand in hand – that is just an opinion. An opinion based on much wildlife spotting at bird and wildlife sanctuary’s located within the confines of golf courses. I keep my Audubon field guide in my golf bag for quick identification… just saying.

    I’m not sure what basketball has to do with this, but there is a court on Jeff Davis off of Tulane if you’re looking for a pick up game. If you would like to see basketball in the park then you should get involved and try to raise funds for that!

    Also, you’re right, I’m not the typical golfer. It’s because I’m a woman. I hope that changes in time with more public access to the game. However, I’m socio-economically pretty typical for NOLA municipal golf.

    I know you’re not wasting anymore time, but I would appreciate if you would consider New Orleans in your view on this subject. We’re not typical in many ways. That even applies to public golf.

  • LilMsPoBoy

    Guess what? I’m from here too. Furthermore, your personal experiences have absolutely nothing to do with actual statistics.

    Maybe this article from golf.com will help you understand this.

    http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/where-are-all-black-golfers-nearly-two-decades-after-tiger-woods-arrival-golf-still-st

    Or then again, maybe they’re just playing the “race card” you offensive person. (I’m a Latino. If you’re saying “race card”, I know you’re white. Just stop it.)

    Also, golf and nature MOST CERTAINLY do not go “hand in hand”. Stop being so willfully ignorant.

  • nickelndime

    This is heating up. If I were you, I would either grab a tree or plant one! 03/18/2015 12:10 PM

  • nolallc

    You started this race thing by saying “rich, white, men.” While I don’t disagree that the sport is predominantly white and male, it’s more diverse here in New Orleans. Since the course we’re talking about is in New Orleans, I’m only going to talk about New Orleans. New Orleans is a place where many black, mostly male, people enjoy the game. You are the one who needs to leave race out of this because it’s not currently an issue for golf in New Orleans. Your using some article about the lack of diversity in professional golf is fruitless to the subject of recreational golf at City Park. All are welcome at Bayou Oaks (the “Oaks” that were planted by the course over the 100+ years – by the way). You are correct that it’s been on the decline in general elsewhere. Maybe that’s part of the reason the footprint at City Park has gone from 4 to 2 courses. I don’t think their research into the matter was random, but I honestly can’t speak for them.

    New Orleans was not hit hard by the recession in 2008 because we were rebuilding and still are in a boom. People are moving here all the time and that’s only supposed to increase when the hospital campus opens (and while you’re stereotyping – you know doctors love golf). I don’t think the perils of golf in other communities should be used to compare when we’re just not like everywhere else… statistically speaking. Since you enjoy stats, check out this info that demonstrates my point.
    http://www.datacenterresearch.org/ – that website is listed in this article that sums up the stats
    http://www.nola.com/katrina/index.ssf/2013/08/hurricane_katrina_eight_years.html
    Also, here are some articles, photos and info about wildlife and golf courses. Enjoy.

    http://www.livescience.com/1674-scientists-golf-courses-wildlife-sanctuaries.html
    http://discoversouthcarolina.com/articles/wildlife-abounds-on-south-carolina-golf-courses

    http://www.auduboninternational.org/acspgolf

    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw207

  • LilMsPoBoy

    I get it, YOU LOVE GOLF.

    You’re still wrong. Even what you are insinuating is wrong. You still haven’t addressed the fact that there are seven golf courses within a 25 mile radius, so you’ve actually been arguing my point all along.

    Thanks!

  • nolallc

    Wow. I just read your first post on this thread again. I forgot that you think don’t know about the history of this course.

  • nickelndime

    This is a nola.com re-post: Also check out what’s going on over at thelensnola.org. Little ms po-boy has posted a number of excellent posts, which have been countered by attacks on her ethnicity and gender by, I think Caucasian males and Latino females, but again, I am not sure. Anyway, hang in there, Lloyd, if you are able to read this in that big oak tree. Just for record, anything that has the word MASTER in it, as in MASTER PLAN, smacks of “eliticism” in my book and is designed to fool the general public into believing that it has a say into what happens. 03/18/2015 11:52 PM

  • Nolaresident

    >overwhelming number of New Orleans residents don’t own personal vehicles,<

    Yeah, well there's always the bus.

  • nickelndime

    An overwhelming number of New Orleans residents don’t own personal vehicles because they can’t afford cars and the insurance, because the insurance industry in this state and in the City of New Orleans is seriously (expletive deleted) up. Then the bicyclists get run over because they are hard to see, and then the drivers and other people say the bicyclists (who were run over) deserved it because they had a bad attitude. Now, if so many people are riding bicycles in this gawd4saken city, do you think they are looking for either a golf game or a wildlife refuge?! It’s a human jungle out here. 03/22/2015 10:12 PM