Between the historic French Quarter and Bayou St. John, a former shipping canal and railway sits idle, presenting a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment into recreational space. Plans to convert this right-of-way into an open space greenway are finally close to reality as city officials, urban planners and neighborhood activists prepare to move forward with the project.
The Lafitte Greenway is a planned 3.1-mile long bicycle and pedestrian trail with open space and recreation areas. Plans for the greenway incorporate partnerships with local groups who may seek to add amenities such as sand volleyball courts, community gardens and gathering places. Such amenities may not be part of the initial design of the greenway, but could be added and maintained by individual organizations in collaboration with the city. In an area where trains used to pass through on a daily basis, New Orleans may soon have a vast stretch of open green space right in the middle of an urban setting.
The Lafitte Greenway will provide more than just green space for the city of New Orleans. As people from many areas of New Orleans use the pedestrian and bicycle trail, it will be a connective thread through multiple, adjacent neighborhoods. The continuous, public open space will act as a corridor that connects neighborhoods as diverse as the eighteenth-century French Quarter, Treme, Mid City and the mid twentieth-century suburbs of Lakeview.
Economic investment and commercial development can be expected to follow the opening of the Lafitte Greenway. Businesses along the corridor will adapt to appeal to cyclists and pedestrians and new development may be attracted to the area as a result of the recreational resource. With the conversion of the unused railroad right-of-way into something of value, New Orleans can leverage the Lafitte Greenway to catalyze neighborhood revitalization.
Many cities and governments own stretches of linear right-of-way as a result of former railway lines and transportation pathways. Many successful examples of rails-to-trails conversion into recreational space already exist, including the Tammany Trace trail just north of New Orleans and the widely celebrated High Line in New York City. As cities consider what to do with these linear tracts of land, the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans may serve as another example of great value created from abandoned rail lines.
How else can cities make use of unused railway lines?
Credits: Photos by Jessica Yoon. Data linked to sources.