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Report of the May 26, 2009 City Park Improvement Association Board Meeting

Update March 11, 2010: In an article in today's Times-Picayune about the golf courses, it becomes abundantly clear that City Park officials are continuing to plan for a $46 million, 2-phase, 3-course golf behemoth in City Park, despite their admission at the May 26, 2010 meeting, both verbally and in print, that "it is highly likely that the Park will only be able to proceed with the Phase I plan in the near future. No other public funding for golf is currently available or programmed and a Phase II will cost more than $21 million dollars".(page 12/17 of the attached document)

Although the outcome of the CPIA Board vote and the expansion of golf in City Park was never really in doubt, thanks to the outcry by concerned citizens who worked tirelessly to strip away the veil of secrecy from the CPIA planning process, the Board was forced to make a number of concessions regarding their proposed plans for golf in City Park, none of which have been mentioned in the media articles published since the meeting.

An unchastened but clearly on the defensive CPIA Board was forced to back down from their consideration of a plan to lease away half of the public park under their stewardship in a no-bid transaction to a private developer for a term of 50-90 years.

Whether due to the immorality or merely the illegality of the original lease plan, their new plan is to use a public-private partnership structure via a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement to achieve Phase One. We await the terms of the CEA and their Request for Proposals to be made public.

The scope of the project has effectively been downsized from the much-touted "$46 million plan" to a much more reasonable $24.5 million plan, which is fairly close to the golf portion of the original, publicly-vetted 2005 Master Plan for City Park, which was projected at $21 million.
Of the $24.5 million for Phase One, City Park already has in hand $15.5 million in public money ($6 million in FEMA-related money and roughly $10 million in state capital outlay funds). They are looking for a private or non-profit partner to provide the remaining $9 million, and it's possible that more suitors than just the Bayou District Foundation may apply for that role now that the funding numbers have come back down to earth. But will the Times-Picayune cease referring to it as a "$46 million project" anytime soon? Not likely.

The CPIA Board was forced to concede that it is "highly unlikely" that Phase Two will ever happen, meaning that instead of three golf courses in City Park, there will be only two.
Due to the declining interest in golf as a recreational activity and the difficulty of securing funding for new golf course projects when golf courses are failing all over this region and the country, the total new golf course complex is likely to be limited to one new championship course, a relocated new clubhouse and driving range, and the current North Course, recently upgraded for $1.3 million.

Folks, this is huge. The old West Course was originally merged in Phase Two with the North Course to make a new 18-hole course and a new 9-hole course (which was deemed to offer "minimal financial benefits"). Even though the footprint of the new Phase One championship course may be redesigned to meet the new funding reality, what this could mean for the non-golfing public is that the old West Course may be made available for non-golfing use. Perhaps even to be used for--dare we hope--passive public natural green space, similar in concept to a "public park". Citizens need to start advocating for this NOW.

This direction would also approach the sort of "win-win" scenario that really ought to be the most desired outcome for all users of City Park: enough public golf to meet the recreational needs of the community, but not so much that it deprives the rest of the population from access to and use of such a vast amount of the park.

They finally admitted that they weren't counting water acreage when calculating the amount of City Park acres they claimed were going to be used for golf--despite the fact that the new golf course design increased total "water acreage" in the 1314 acre park, and thus gross area used for golf, by 13%.
Whether construed as an outright intention to deceive or not, the City Park Board's repeated claims that the new golf courses were to occupy "only 400 acres" and thus less land north of I-610 than the three old courses, was a claim that was never believed by anyone who could understand a map and wasn't on the CPIA Board or writing articles for the Times-Picayune that read like Bayou District Foundation press releases. But even they couldn't sustain that absurd claim of "only 400 acres" indefinitely. We came up with figures ranging from 519 acres to 600 acres, and the City Park Board is now admitting publicly to 514 acres, so perhaps we should just agree to use the 550 acres figure from the Bayou District Foundation's original lease proposal and leave it at that.

CPIA CEO Bob Becker conceded that, in terms of numbers of visitors who use the park, golfers represented "not an overwhelming" number.
In an attempt to downplay the number of park users that are currently enjoying the dormant golf courses, Becker explained that park staff had conducted a survey of the current users, consisting of runners, walkers, bikers, dog-walkers, etc, and had discovered that the numbers of non-golfers currently using the land was roughly equal to the number of golfers who would be using the same land if it were returned to golf courses, a number he went on to describe as representing "not an overwhelming use". One presumes that the big difference in user value in the eyes of park staff is in paying versus non-paying users; however, we must point out that the maintenance costs for the two different uses are considerably different as well.

And finally, they have agreed to build a bike path/trail from Harrison Ave. to Filmore Ave., along the edge of the Couturie Forest, acquiescing to the desire of non-golfing park users to have more access to the center of the north half of the park and not be limited to just its periphery.

Congratulations to the concerned citizens and park-lovers who have worked so hard to reach this point! With continued diligence on your part, the most troublesome aspects of the plan that still remain may continue to be mitigated. Thank you.

City Park Meeting Document distributed at the May, 26, 2010 meeting.