Proposed $4 million sports complex at Audubon Park ‘Fly’ ignites differing opinions _lowres

Advocate staff photo by DELLA HASSELLE -- Members of Save The Fly held a protest and picnic on Feb. 14 to preserve the area Audubon Park.

It appears the folks at Audubon are serious about seeking public input, something they have not always made a priority in the past.

The Audubon Commission will hold a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss upcoming projects and improvements in Audubon Park.

While most of the projects under consideration are minor, the agenda includes discussion of an update to the park’s master plan.

That could end up generating some debate, as the recent controversy over plans for a soccer complex at the park’s riverfront end centered in part around the overall vision for the park.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Audubon Tea Room.

It will provide an update on projects that are underway at the park as well as a look at the three-year improvement plan.

The list includes relatively minor items, such as repaving of jogging paths and the replacement of benches and bike racks, as well as larger projects that are still on the drawing board, such as renovations to Magazine Street, scheduled for 2017.

The park’s master plan is also scheduled for completion in 2017.

The public meeting comes after the commission faced criticism over a plan to let the nonprofit Carrollton Boosters build a soccer complex in the area known as “The Fly.”

Opponents of the plan, who argued it amounted to privatizing public green space, said the proposal had not been subject to public debate early in the process because most people did not know it was in the works.

The plan for the $4 million complex has since been scrapped, and the commission is considering new self-imposed rules that would require greater public outreach for any projects that would take away a significant amount of green space in the various parks the board oversees.

An Audubon spokesman said subsequent meetings will be held downtown to discuss upcoming projects at Woldenberg Riverfront Park; in eastern New Orleans, the site of the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, set to open this year; and on the West Bank, where a partnership with San Diego Zoo Global is preparing to launch the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife, an ambitious project designed to replenish threatened animal populations.

A schedule for the future meetings will be announced soon.

Jokes are cracked over city’s cracked streets

The official completion of the Paths to Progress and Submerged Roads programs, two huge federal efforts to repair roads in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina, provided an opportunity for some amusing reminiscing last week.

At a ceremony celebrating the end of the work, some speakers mentioned that the speed and urgency with which some of the projects made it through the pipeline came after a meeting with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was pushing for projects to be completed in time for the 2013 Super Bowl in the city.

“I’m sorry you had to remember that meeting. That was a tough meeting to have,” Landrieu said.

“Hurry the hell up,” he recalled saying.

The ceremony also provided Landrieu with an opportunity to recall once again a favorite anecdote about the advice his father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, gave him six years ago.

“The night before I was sworn in, I went to see my daddy, and I said, ‘You were the mayor. Anything you want to tell me?’ He said, ‘Tomorrow, you’re going to own every pothole,’ ” Landrieu said.

“I didn’t know it was going to keep going on for six years,” he added.

And a ceremony about roadwork last week would hardly have been complete without a passing reference to the tunnel collapse on Canal Street.

“The mayor mentioned as he came in: There’s one last project, it’s on Canal Street and there’s a small pothole we’ve got to work together on,” state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson joked, referring to the 600-square-foot hole that opened up recently near the riverfront.

Fixing the hole is not part of either of the two now-ended federal programs, but the state Department of Transportation and Development has offered support to the city as it works to fix the problem, a process that could take three to six months and cost $3 million to $5 million.

Compiled by Jeff Adelson