Lafitte to Lakefront
Early French settlers founded New Orleans on the banks of the Mississippi River, a short portage from the Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. In the 19th century, the Carondelet Canal enabled the flow of goods and people between the Bayou and the Vieux Carré. Investing in the Lafitte Blueway and the city’s primary outfall canals as park zones and public spaces reestablishes that historic connection and revitalizes the entire city. They are also amenities that serve residents from the French Quarter and Mid City to Lakeview and Filmore (Gentilly), where the 25 acre Mirabeau Water Garden provides a model for lowland water management.
The Lafitte Blueway can recharge groundwater, provide a new habitat for wildlife within the city, offer recreational opportunities, and restore the historical connection between Bayou St. John and the French Quarter.
The site is currently higher than the surrounding neighborhoods, but can be excavated to provide additional storage capacity to the drainage system. This would reduce severe repetitive loss flooding that is common to the surrounding area.
Left: The Carondelet Canal once connected Bayou St. John and the French Quarter. Top Right: This connection facilitated commerce by providing an easier path for goods and people between the Gulf and the Mississippi. Bottom Right: Oyster luggers in the Carondelet Canal .
Bayou St. John can become a source of water for the Lafitte Blueway during dry weather. A cascade brings water from the level of the bayou and the lake down to the level of the blueway so that the flow of water is both visible and audible. Trails and pathways will run alongside the Blueway, which will bring pedestrians and cyclists from the bayou all the way to the former Carondelet Canal’s turning basin, right next to Louis Armstrong Park at the northern edge of the French Quarter.
1- House adjacent to London Avenue Canal | 2- House behind London Ave. Canal | 3- Open drainage culvert in the Lafitte Corridor | 4- Underutilized and publicly-owned property | 5- Opportunities for community development | 6- Orleans Pump Station #2
With Lake Pontchartrain, London Avenue Canal, and Bayou St. John nearby, Filmore has ready sources of water to feed a network of roadside bioswales and canals inserted into the neutral grounds of the district’s boulevards. These water features and a system of weirs can allow for the precise control of groundwater levels, critical in areas with highly organic soils that are prone to subsidence.
The twenty-five acre parcel on Mirabeau Avenue in Filmore remains one of the only large parcels in the city of New Orleans under single ownership, the Congregation of St. Joseph. Stormwater storage and filtration, environmental education, and athletic fields can support the community and educational programming. A system of wetland terraces, rain gardens, bioswales, and a woodland wash provide diverse habitats for native flora and fauna. The site can become a model for lowland water management.
A series of wetland terraces on the Mirabeau property can clean and store stormwater diverted from a Sewerage and Water Board drainage pipe. The filtered stormwater will empty into a swimming pool, and a boating area planted with rows of willows.
The removal of functionally obsolete floodwalls and the reshaping of New Orleans’ primary outfall canals can bring beauty and new amenities to the city’s lowlands. With closure structures at the lakefront in place, the outfall canals’ levees and floodwalls no longer function as a last line of defense again storm surge, as they were meant to in 2005.
Reconceived as multi-functional waterways by the lowering of concrete floodwalls that sit atop green levee banks today, each of the three primary outfall canals can become a significant public asset with park areas, trails, docks, and waterfront development in place of the bare concrete walls and hidden canals that characterize these corridors today.