Bayou District Foundation's fundamental goal is to help create a city neighborhood that thrives from excellent housing, nearby high quality schools and retail services and abundant recreational resources for youth. Since the Bayou District borders the historic New Orleans City Park golf courses the redevelopment of the park's dormant golf facilities has become a committed objective of the Bayou District Foundation's recreational plan.
A Golf Lesson From Atlanta
In Atlanta, the game of golf is a major part of the amazing story of the transformation of the East Lake Villages residential community. The ways in which golf helped the East Lake community provides a stirring backdrop to what Bayou District Foundation believes can be achieved in New Orleans with the restoration of City Park's golf courses. Please click on www.eastlakefoundation.org for more information on how they used golf as a guiding force to rebuild one of Atlanta's toughest neighborhoods.
City Park Golf
Bayou District Foundation believes that City Park golf was an underutilized resource before Hurricane Katrina -- however, if the course is properly supported, it could become one of the finest public golf facilities in the United States. Efforts to assist the park in meeting this goal actually began long before Hurricane Katrina. Serious golf course improvement discussions began in 1996 but went nowhere until the Fall of 2003. It was during this time period that Mike Rodrigue, a founding member of the Bayou District Foundation, was working with the City Park leadership to try and modernize the East and West Courses at City Park with renowned golf course designer Bobby Weed. Details of this were published in the Times Picayune and elements of the 'Weed Plan' were included in the approved Master Plan for City Park that was approved in September 2004. After Katrina, Rodrigue's ideas became a natural part of Bayou District Foundation's overall planning on how nearby golf access for Bayou District residents could become an integral component of the overall Bayou District quality of life -- exactly as happened in Atlanta at East Lake.
As with so many other aspects of life in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina totally reconfigured the picture. City Park's golf courses were largely shattered. Irrigation, piping, electrical and sanitation facilities were all destroyed by the floodwater's of Katrina. Out of state contractors hacked up several of the golf courses oak trees and the courses were left with large gouges and craters where heavy equipment had settled.
First hole of former East course; May 2008. Courtesy Miller Photography.
Out of this mess, the Bayou District Foundation leadership saw an opportunity. What if City Park could combine some of its disaster relief funds with private dollars provided by Bayou District Foundation and create a world class public golf facility? This would solve the financing problem that vexed earlier efforts to improve golf in the park using only private funding and would advance golf in the Park far above what could have been done exclusively with existing FEMA funds (which by rule could only be used to restore golf in the park to pre storm conditions.)
After almost a year of discussion, Rees Jones, who has designed 18 U.S. Open golf courses, as well as the redesign/facelift of two of the most famous public golf facilities in the United States (Bethpage State Park in New York and Torrey Pines in San Diego CA) was retained by the Park to design a Bethpage-style makeover of the East and West Courses at City Park. Rees Jones and his Chief Designer, Greg Murihead, took the job and have designed a golf course that will be among the finest public facilities in the nation.
The design team has created a golf course that will embrace City Park's most recognized and cherished qualities by preserving the gorgeous live oaks and the natural bayous and lagoons that flow in and through the park. the designed facility includes a new 18 hole course, a driving range, maintenance facility, new cart paths and a full service clubhouse. This 18 hole course would measure 7400 yards from the tips but will feature multiple tees and generous fairways to accommodate golfers of all skill levels. The driving range will have space for learning and junior golf so that that beginners and juniors can learn how to play the game. The clubhouse will be consistent with the park's existing architecture and will be designed to be a functional and efficient space.
The North Course at City Park will remain open throughout construction.
The golf plan dramatically shrinks the footprint of golf in the park and is designed to enhance the natural spaces in the park, most notably Couturie forest and the lagoons. The golf plan also should assist in drainage as the lagoons and bayous may be pumped down in advance of approaching storms. This should also help drainage efforts in neighborhoods that border the park.
Bayou District Foundation believes that golf can offer kids a unique sport for understanding what the game teaches: responsibility, respect and integrity. Using golf as an organizing theme, residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in the Bayou District will be encouraged to use Park facilities to teach kids the game of golf. There will also be dedicated programming to provide economically disadvantaged kids with special opportunities to play in the park.
This golf plan is years in the making and will be years in construction, but when implemented will represent a real and serious partnership between the City Park leadership and other recreation and athletic stakeholders in New Orleans. A improved golf facility will not only be a benefit to the residents of Louisiana but will enhance the reputation of New Orleans and City Park as a 'must visit' for travelers and players from all over the globe.