After public comments that were not that positive, the plan to restore Pontchartrain Beach was approved keeping the $10 entry fee.

An ambitious plan to revive Pontchartrain Beach as a public recreation area — though with entrance fees — moved on to its next step Thursday with a unanimous vote in favor by the public body overseeing the site. The Lakefront Management Authority’s board voted to negotiate a lease for the once-beloved beach site, which is now closed, with a nonprofit seeking to restore it. The vote came despite some residents’ concerns over issues such as traffic and the entrance fees planned for the beach. “I want all the members of the public to understand that the foundation and the board are working together with you guys,” LMA Vice Chair Esmond Carr said. “You were heard and I think that good things will come from this.”

As there was only one submission to refresh the beach I had no doubt that money would overrule people.

The authority issued a request for proposals in May to lease out the mile-long stretch located behind the University of New Orleans’ Research and Technology Park. The Pontchartrain Beach Foundation had approached the LMA board in December with the idea to revitalize the beach, and was the only group to submit a proposal. Thursday’s vote follows the foundation’s presentation before an authority committee on July 19, and another before the full board on Tuesday that drew concerns from residents. The board, after listening to these concerns, decided to establish a special process for how the lease will be negotiated to ensure that citizens can comment on its terms before it is granted. The lease will be written by the LMA’s executive director, real estate consultant and legal counsel through negotiations with the foundation, as is normally the case for lease agreements between the LMA and an outside organization. After a draft of the beach’s lease has been created, it will be reviewed by three of the authority’s committees. If they approve, it will then be reviewed and voted on by the full board.

Dog park, recreation and food are all planned for the beach area.

The foundation outlined a project that would include a recreational area with a wetlands preserve to its west and a dog park to its east. It would also host a small marina, an area for food trucks and other vendors, and possibly some entertainment venues. Some community and board members have expressed concerns that the beach, which the foundation had indicated would be made public, would include admission prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children. The foundation says the fees are necessary to cover exorbitant insurance and security costs. The fees could be eliminated if the state or authority could cover those expenses, it says.

Federal funds will be used for the work but they have to be applied for.

The costs to renovate the beach are estimated to be $15 million. The foundation is hoping money from the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year can be allocated to the project. Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been appointed by the White House to oversee those funds. Board member Renee Lapeyrolerie asked Thursday if the foundation had already applied for the federal funds. Board member Wilma Heaton replied that the foundation is waiting to obtain the lease before submitting an application. “There are many, many organizations in this region competing for that same pot of money,” Heaton said. “The window is closing for anyone to get money for Pontchartrain Beach, because they can’t apply until they have a lease.”

Those wanting to bring the beach back went they as they grew up so have fond memories of the visits.

Guy Williams, CEO of Gulf Coast Bank, founded the Pontchartrain Beach Foundation with Michael Liebaert, former head of the charitable Azby Foundation. Memories of Pontchartrain Beach remain strong for many New Orleans area residents. The amusement park and its roller coasters — riding the Zephyr was a local rite of passage — shut down for good in 1983. Started in the 1920s, it was initially segregated for Whites only until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East — which is also being assessed for revival — had been designated for the city’s Black residents. The beach is currently considered too dangerous for swimming due to underwater hazards.

You can’t have a beach without swimming so the water will have to be cleaned up from the hazards.

Pay $10 to visit a public beach
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