Lincoln Beach is the stepchild. They need help andd the city does have a pages on what needs to be done but will they get the help they need?
When it comes to Lincoln Beach, the long-neglected New Orleans East recreation spot that’s recently had a quiet revival, city officials and the volunteers who tend to it say they want the same thing: a newly restored, pristine Lake Pontchartrain beachfront for everyone to enjoy. But in recent months, as City Hall has begun developing plans to rehabilitate the area, Lincoln Beach advocates say they’ve been frustrated by the slow pace of government action. Sick of the lack of progress over four mayoral administrations, residents adopted the beach in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. They took it upon themselves to clear thickets, build tables and walking trails, gather thousands of bags of garbage and even install a rudimentary drainage system. Officials in Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, meanwhile, say they are pursuing a development plan filled with contracting procedures, permitting requirements and grant applications. Cantrell has set aside $5 million in money borrowed via bond issues, and the Department of Public Works has submitted a formal proposal for money from the BP oil disaster settlement.nola.com
Garbage is there that the city has been asked to move.
Amid the plodding bureacratic process, garbage continues to accumulate on the 15-acre site. Volunteers have hung signs directing visitors to dispose of waste properly, in strategically placed bins, and warning that glass is not allowed. They have pleaded with City Hall to clear a massive pile of garbage bags – large enough to fill a small apartment – that they have collected under a pavilion. But officials have resisted. They are quick to point out that, technically, nothing is allowed at Lincoln Beach: Setting foot on it is trespassing. “Lincoln Beach is closed. It’s not a safe place to be right now,” Cheryn Robles, the Cantrell administration’s project manager, said during a City Council committee meeting on Wednesday. “In terms of priorities of how we should be addressing illegal dumping, I would say it’s more important for us to be addressing it on roads that are open.”
Beach front and they expect no one to go there? Think again!
The Cantrell administration’s Lincoln Beach revival plans are the latest in a succession of fitful efforts dating from the 1990s. Plans call for a natural recreation environment, and roughly half of the needed money has been committed. The administration produced a site assessment in April 2021, and Robles said designs are in the works. A request for proposals for a master planner could be issued soon, and a construction timeline ready by spring. But residents have grown frustrated with the lack of visible progress and clear information, especially as they continue to maintain the site on their own time and dime. “I just bought a $600 lawn mower, and it broke in a week because it hit some old rebar. said artist Reggie Ford, who has worked with community activist Michael Pellet on the site’s upkeep. “I’m about to buy another one. This is like my fourth lawn mower,” Ford said he spends as many as six hours a day working at Lincoln Beach, and has spent more than $20,000 on it. Pellet, who also goes by Sage Michael, said he started organizing volunteers in March 2020 so New Orleans East could “have something.” “For this community that’s been suffering from disaster after disaster, after false promises after lack of investment,” Michael said.
The sity wants to help but not officially so they don’t assume liability.
The Cantrell administration formed the Lincoln Beach Community Advisory Committee to encourage the volunteers’ commitment, even as officials tiptoe around the appearance of inviting liability. The idea is to consult with residents and report on the latest developments in planning. But there hasn’t been much to report over the last 1½ years, said Blyss Wallace, the group’s president. Getting clear information has been “like pulling teeth,” she said. Still, Wallace said she is hopeful for renewed momentum, and better relations with city officials, after the City Council committee meeting on Wednesday. That will start with clearing the trash, which officials finally agreed to help with this month. Following through on that promise will show good faith, Wallace said. “Everybody’s so zoned in on [the garbage], and with every right to be,” Wallace said. “Removing that will show that they’re actually working with us.”
Pontchartrain Beach has an official sponsor which Lincoln Beach does not nor does it have the money to do so.
Part of the reason for concerns about Lincoln Beach’s progress relates to the news last month that Pontchartrain Beach had been turned over to a nonprofit for redevelopment, with plans for a wetlands preserve, dog park and a small marina near the University of New Orleans. Pontchartrain Beach was a popular attraction but was off limits to Black residents during the Jim Crow era. Lincoln Beach, located far from where most people lived at the time, was offered up as a consolation prize. It was hard to reach, but it hosted a full-fledged amusement park, with a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, swimming pools and a performance venue that drew big-name artists. City Hall left Lincoln Beach to nature once Pontchartrain Beach was desegregated with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But even with the end of legal segregation at Pontchartrain Beach Black residents were never entirely welcome there. Some Black New Orleanians worry that Lincoln Beach will get left behind again, said Dawn Hebert, president of the East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission. “Lincoln Beach is more of an African American historical site that the community wants to restore,” Hebert said. “The city just decided to abandon Lincoln Beach completely.”
The city should have kept both opened as they serve different communities and are far enough apart geographically.