A public hearing for the revival of Pontchartrain Beach was held and with the speakers not all were in favor.

A proposal to revive the once-beloved Pontchartrain Beach as a recreation spot along the New Orleans lakefront was given a hearing before a packed room on Tuesday, with some praising efforts to restore it while also criticizing the plan’s details. Representatives from the Pontchartrain Beach Foundation (PBF) gave a presentation on its plan and responded to questions from the beach’s neighbors at a Lakefront Management Authority committee meeting. In addition to the mile-long beach and recreation area, the project would include a wetlands preserve to the west and a dog park to the east. It would also host a small marina, an area for food trucks and other vendors and possibly some entertainment venues, according to the proposal released publicly Monday. While the foundation has described its plans as a public beach, the proposal includes admission fees of $10 for adults and $5 for children to enter the beach’s recreational area. “The vision was for a public recreation area, yet in your fundraising plan you’re going to charge everybody to enter the water,” LMA board member Pat Meadowcroft said. “You can’t have it both ways. It’s either public or private.”

Yes, I understand fees but if I have been coming to this beach for years and did not pay, this is not a public beach any more. It is for the rich. A family of 4 with 2 kids could pay up to $40 or as little as $30 but that could be expensive and would cut down on the visits we make. Unless that is the intent.

PBF co-founder Guy Williams responded that the fees were necessary because of the requirement that the project’s developer be responsible for insurance and security costs. He said entrance fees could be dropped if the authority agreed to continue paying for the beach’s insurance and security. Insurance for the beach site alone costs around $500,000, which is currently being paid for by the LMA, the state body which oversees New Orleans’ public lakefront assets. “If the foundation has to cover insurance and security, then there’s nowhere else to get the money,” Williams said.

The new proposal would create a wetlands and environmental education area at the far west end and a dog park at the far east. In the center would be swimming, wading, and area for picnics and BBQs, with a small designated boating marina.
Courtesy Dana Brown Associates

Good point on the dog park but the beaches on the Lake are often closed for algae outbreaks during the summer.

Meadowcroft also suggested that the PBF should have the EPA do quality testing of lake water to ensure that people can swim in it again. She questioned whether a dog park could result in contaminated runoff into the lake and lower water quality. The site was long home to a popular amusement park by the same name that closed for good in 1983. It began during segregation as the lakeside beach for Whites only, with Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East — which is also being assessed for revival — designated for the city’s Black residents. The amusement park’s history dates to the late 1920s, growing over the decades to include roller coasters, dolphin shows and high-dive exhibitions, as well as regular performances with headliners such as Fats Domino and Elvis Presley. It reached its prime in the 1950s and 1960s, but saw visitor numbers decline in later years as lake pollution turned off crowds at the same time as other attractions and resort destinations pulled visitors farther afield.

This was a planned meeting as the Foundation gets their ducks in a line.

The LMA’s Subdivision/Recreation committee held Tuesday’s meeting to allow the public to voice their concerns. “This is just a discussion,” LMA Subdivision Recreation Committee Chair Esmond Carr said. “This large proposal needs to be reviewed. Not only by myself and the board, but also by the neighbors.” If the committee votes yes to leasing out the property at its next meeting, the LMA board will still have to vote on the recommendation before the lease could be handed out. The foundation was the only group to apply for a lease to Pontchartrain Beach, located behind the University of New Orleans’ technology park. Its representatives made a presentation to the LMA board in December, but was turned away for submitting an unsolicited proposal. A request for proposals was released by the LMA in April. Williams, also CEO of Gulf Coast Bank, has expressed a sense of urgency in obtaining the lease. PBF plans to seek funding for the $15 million renovation from the bipartisan infrastructure law approved by Congress last year. The White House has appointed former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu to oversee the allocation of those funds. “The amount of money we need for our project and for Pontchartrain Beach is like nickels in the seat cushion for the federal government,” Williams said, adding that Landrieu would be familiar with the importance of the project.

An architect’s rendering of a revived Pontchartrain Beach, which has deteriorated over decades of neglect into a place unsafe for beachgoers. A non-profit group hopes to get permission to seek federal money to revive it as a lakefront park.
Courtesy Dana Brown Associates

One question is why the Foundation does not do the renewal themselves.

Carr questioned why the LMA shouldn’t apply for the money to renovate and manage the beach itself. However, Williams said he wasn’t confident in the LMA’s ability to do so since he expects Landrieu to allocate the funds by the end of this year. “The LMA has always had the ability to go after this money and step in and be the developer, but you also have to consider bandwidth and focus,” Williams said. “I don’t know if, with your structure, you can get everything done and apply for this.” The foundation requested a 50-year lease to the beach, paying the LMA $300 per year until the beach becomes operational. As of Monday, the foundation has $46,000 set aside to renovate the beach. The foundation plans to have the beach operational in four years.

To be honest, my tastes go for the un-renovated as I want a beach not the frills. I know that I am in the minority but still I hater it when the public loses the beach.

Public not all in favor for Pontchartrain Beach upgrade