New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, July 15, 2024
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Articles About Lincoln Beach


After years of talking and fighting, supporters of a plan to clean up
the decaying site of the former Lincoln Beach amusement park on Lake Pontchartrain
finally have a detailed blueprint for transforming the site into a family
recreation oasis with a sandy beach, picnic areas, volleyball courts and
a new fishing pier.

There's only one catch to the ambitious proposal, which also would reopen
a quarter-mile stretch of the lake to public swimming for the first time
in a generation: where to find the nearly $20 million needed to make the
dream a reality.

After a lengthy debate last year about whether the Orleans Levee Board
or the city owns the 15-acre lakefront site, all sides now seem to agree
that the city is responsible for it and will take the lead in seeking the
money to improve it.

City Councilwoman Ellen Hazeur-Distance, who represents the eastern
New Orleans neighborhoods that have led the fight to restore Lincoln Beach,
said Tuesday she realizes that little more than conceptual drawings exist
now. Even so, she said, she hopes the plan, which would be phased in over
several years, will prove to be a valuable tool in the city's efforts to
secure state and federal dollars for the project.

"At long last, we have a route to get where we want to go," she said.
"And while it will take some time to bring this to fruition, I believe
we have something here that will allow us to begin to gain access to what
will one day be an environmental gem."

Hazeur-Distance said she plans to seek between $3 million and $7 million
from the Legislature this year. That could allow the site to be opened
for limited use as soon as mid-2000, she said.

A key selling point for the project, proponents say, is recent environmental
studies showing that the water at Lincoln Beach is one of the cleanest
spots in the lake, which was closed to swimming in the early 1980s. Ongoing
analysis by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation indicates that the
site, near the Little Woods subdivision, could be safe for swimming by
this summer or next.

The restoration plan, prepared by the Burk-Kleinpeter engineering firm,
was commissioned by the Levee Board before the issue of who owns and is
responsible for the site became the subject of a dispute last year between
some board members and City Hall officials, including Hazeur-Distance,
who represents the City Council on the board.

The board, which is struggling to balance its budget for the fiscal
year that begins July 1, maintains that because a former private owner
failed to pay taxes on the site, it reverted to the city. Thus, the board
says, it no longer owns the property and is prohibited by law from spending
any money to improve it.

With all parties apparently now in agreement that the city owns Lincoln
Beach, the site of an amusement park for the city's black residents in
the era of segregation, Hazeur-Distance said she is prepared to ask her
colleagues to accept the restoration plan. She said such a vote would be
the first step in the process of finding money to implement the plan.

Armed with the support of eastern New Orleans residents, who helped
prepare the proposal, and a clear strategy, she said, the city is in a
much better position to find support for the project in Baton Rouge or

"We have a plan, we have a consensus, and we now agree on who owns it,"
Hazeur-Distance said. "We couldn't say any of those things as recently
as six months ago."

The development plan, which is divided into seven phases, is designed
to open the site to the public for special events initially, with greater
access during summer months as improvements are added. A small, unspecified
admission fee is recommended to help defray maintenance costs.

The first phase, budgeted at $2.64 million, calls for a cleanup of the
site, including demolishing old buildings, removing hazardous materials,
improving access, restoring the sand beach and clearing a city-owned tract
across Hayne Boulevard for parking.

The second phase, budgeted at $2.4 million, would provide a pedestrian
crosswalk with signals at Hayne, a new fishing pier similar to the one
that was a prominent attraction at the old Lincoln Beach, and temporary
restrooms and concessions areas.

The next three phases, which carry a price of $7.3 million, would feature
a permanent concessions building, new utilities, picnic facilities and
recreation areas, including volleyball courts and a playground.

The final two phases, budgeted at $6.7 million, would include an entertainment
plaza and an interactive fountain on the site, plus a recreation center
and swimming pool on the city property across Hayne Boulevard.

With Hazeur-Distance prepared to outline the proposal for other City
Council members this month, the Levee Board's involvement with Lincoln
Beach apparently has ended.

Over the objections of eastern New Orleans residents and elected officials,
a sharply divided board voted in July to withdraw a $1.5 million commitment
to begin cleaning up the site.

In 1997, before the ownership questions arose, the Levee Board had hired
Burk-Kleinpeter to do an analysis of what work would be required to restore
Lincoln Beach and how much it would cost.

On Tuesday, the completed report was submitted to the board's Planning,
Engineering and Construction Committee. Saying the board no longer has
a financial stake in the matter, except perhaps to seek money for the fishing
pier, Committee Chairman Robert Lupo said the analysis should be forwarded
to the council and Mayor Marc Morial's administration for review.

PLAN COST PHASE 1: Cleanup and initial access improvements. $2.64 million
PHASE 2: Fishing pier and access completion. $2.42 million PHASE 3: Pavilion
restoration, picnic shelters and utilities. $2.26 million PHASE 4: Sand
beach expansion and pool demolition $2.26 million PHASE 5: Concession
building and plaza. $2.59 million PHASE 6: Entertainment plaza and fountain.
$2.12 million PHASE 7: Community recreation improvements. $4.58 million
TOTAL COST: $19.01 million Source: Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc.

Source: [ORLEANS Edition]
Times - Picayune
New Orleans, La.
Jan 6, 1999
May 2001 Lincoln's Log. (efforts in New Orleans to reopen Lincoln Beach as public park) Jason Hernandez

Source: New Orleans Magazine, May 2001 v35 i8 p30.

Title: lincoln's log.(efforts in New Orleans to reopen Lincoln Beach as
public park)(Brief Article)
Author: Jason Hernandez

Subjects: New Orleans, Louisiana - Parks
Beaches - Management
City planning - Analysis
Locations: Louisiana

Electronic Collection: A74223063
RN: A74223063

Full Text COPYRIGHT 2001 New Orleans Publishing Group, Inc.

beach-site revival begins

Before closing in 1964, Lincoln Beach was a segregation-era amusement park for
black people. Now, in an effort driven by the support of several groups,
including All Congregations Together and the St. Simon Peter parishioner
group, the once-neglected park site may reopen next year.

Though it is not planning an amusement park them, the city is in the first
phase of renewing the beach with a massive cleanup effort. Under the guidance
of Gordon Austin, chief of environmental affairs, the Sewerage and Water Board
is leading the Supplemental Environmental Project, which includes planting
submersed aquatic vegetation and establishing an arboretum, which will allow
public access to the site and aid in environmental education. The Lake
Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, Tulane
University and the New Orleans Building Corp. are also helping to develop the
Water Quality Predictive Model, which will enable health authorities to
determine if the water is suitable for swimming and fishing.

The effort is no small task. "What you have out there is what someone walked
away from in 1964," Austin says.

Local environmental experts from an organization called Materials Management
Group were brought in to provide an update on the environmental situation. The
site was last checked in 1998, and now the company is determining what has
changed or possibly developed, with those results expected this month. Once
the area is deemed safe for recreational purposes, the rebuilding of some old
structures can begin.

[Graphic omitted]New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, whose
district includes the Lincoln Beach area, is enthusiastic about the effect
that the 2002 reopening will have on the community. The Sewerage and Water
Board of New Orleans has gained federal recognition because of its restoration
of the wetlands to the east and west of the beach and the lowering of
pollution levels in the water. According to Willard-Lewis, the site is now an
example that other states are following as a standard of environmental safety.
"This [project] was a real win-win for us. It was a negative situation that
turned into a positive."

What all parties are hoping to accomplish is the reestablishment of what
Willard-Lewis describes as a "family-oriented leisure space." With nearby
Jazzland providing the amusements, Lincoln Beach is content with being the
only sandy beach in the area for public fishing and swimming. There are also
plans for a memorial celebrating the historical and cultural significance of
the area. "Many young people are unaware of the significance of Lincoln
Beach," she says.

At the height of the beach's popularity, many black musicians used to perform
there, including local legend Fats Domino. Soon New Orleanians will be able to
enjoy Lincoln Beach just as former generations did.