Land Use
 

Balancing act: Master plan upholds spirit of Audubon Park, commissioner contends

Audubon Nature Institute

A running path beneath overarching oak boughs is one of Audubon Park’s most popular features.

“Balance’’ has rightfully become the focal point as commissioners complete a master plan for the future of Audubon Park.

As stewards of the iconic gathering place that UNO historian Joseph Logsdon called Uptown New Orleans’ “urban Eden,’’ Audubon commissioners are steadfast in their commitment to maintain equilibrium between passive greenspace and space set aside for recreation.

The 1914 state legislation that created Audubon Park states that the duties of the commission “shall be to take charge and supervision of the said park, and to preserve and improve it for public recreation and use as a place of public resort and pleasure.’’ The act adds that the commission “shall have full charge of the control and management, repair, maintenance, development and improvement of the said park.’’

A recent column in The Lens expressed anxiety that Audubon Park, like the Louisiana coastline, “is disappearing.’’

That concern is misplaced.

From the park’s bustling, 1.8-mile path for walkers, runners and bikers to the peace and quiet of oak-lined lagoons to the picnic shelters and playgrounds that have welcomed families for generations, there is significant space for those who want to exercise outdoors or find inspiration in a tranquil setting.

The equilibrium is equally evident on the Riverview, a place we locals call “The Fly.’’

The Fly’s manicured soccer and baseball fields offer an outlet for thousands of youngsters of all socio-economic strata to stay healthy and develop their athletic skills against an idyllic backdrop.

Another unfounded concern is that Audubon Park is accessible only to citizens of a certain income. Visitors on any day can clearly see that the park is accessible to all.

Finally, the suggestion that the Audubon Commission is interested in proliferating “amenities’’ in Audubon Park must be dismissed out of hand. No such philosophy exists.

Audubon Nature Institute

Among park amenities is a playground for children, including those with special needs, donated by the Drew Brees Foundation.

Based on the views expressed by park users at three recent public meetings and more than 1,000 comments online, it is clear the public wants Audubon to preserve the balance that exists while also addressing issues such as drainage and lighting and safer access to and from the park across Magazine Street.

As we look ahead, Commission members want to continue hearing from the diverse community that uses Audubon Park. It is one of the glimmering jewels of our city and we’d like to hear suggestions on the best ways to preserve and enhance it.

We urge everyone – both locals and visitors alike – to take part in this planning process. Please visit our website, take the online survey and attend our remaining public hearing Wednesday May 16 beginning at 6 p.m. in the Audubon Tea Room.

For more than 150 years, Audubon Park has been a place for making memories.

As we prepare to celebrate the 300th anniversary of our beloved city, we want everyone’s help to ensure that Audubon Park maintains its status as that special place.

J. Kelly Duncan is President of the Audubon Commission.

Views expressed in the Opinion section are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To propose an idea for a column, contact Lens founder Karen Gadbois.

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