New Orleans City Park CEO Says Without Help, Park May Revert to Pre-Katrina Status

Photo by Mr. Littlehand, Wikimedia

New Orleans City Park is facing a major budget crisis thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the majority of park facilities closed, the park’s revenue streams have dried up. Now, without help, the park may revert to the pre-Katrina days wrote CEO Bob Becker in a letter on the park’s website.

In the 15 years since Hurricane Katrina, the park has made a number of improvements. Following the park’s “master plan,” they built the Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn, the City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center, replanted the Botanical Garden, and renovated almost all of the park’s buildings. Storyland has been both repaired and expanded, and more than 6,400 trees have been planted to replace the more than 2,000 that were downed in Hurricane Katrina. The park’s “City Bark” dog park is one of the only parks in the United States to earn a “five-paw” designation. The amusement park added new roller coasters, secured funding for a splash park, and constructed a new PGA golf course worth $14 million.

Now, all of that is in danger, Becker says.

Ninety percent of the City Park’s revenue comes from activities in the park that are now closed. In fact, Becker predicts that through June 30, the park will have lost around $4.7 million dollars in revenue – or 24 percent of the park’s overall operating budget. Due to the Park’s unique funding model and governing structure, Becker says they are unable to qualify for programs being used to support nonprofits and other businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While they’ve made requests to the State for operating funds, it’s unclear whether they’ll receive them.

As a result, the Park is now turning to New Orleans residents and private donors for help.

“We are reaching out to you, our longstanding supporters of the Park, as well as those who have recently come to appreciate all the new activities which have been added, for help,” Becker says. “Our team is on the ground ensuring that we still continue to maintain grounds and horticulture, to the best of our ability, to provide a phenomenal resource for you. We’re here for you, and hope that you can be here for us during these challenging times. We need you more than ever.”

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist based in New Orleans specializing in politics and social justice issues. In 2019, she was given the title of “Most Fearless” by The Bayou Brief. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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