The protest against a new, championship-level golf course in City Park has taken a new turn, bringing the issue into federal court.
The City Park for Everyone Coalition is bringing federal suit against New Orleans City Park and FEMA in an attempt to stop the construction of a $13 million golf course slated to occupy land between Wisner Boulevard and Marconi Drive and Harrison and Filmore Avenues.
The course, designed by architect Rees Jones, ranges from 5,100 – 7,250 yards. Filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the lawsuit is the latest development following a series of protests and rallies decrying the new development. It also comes days after a man protesting the course’s construction fell out of the tree he had been staying in and was taken away by ambulance, according to reports.
Coalition members contend that instead of building the course, park officials should allow nature to prevail. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, much of the land was occupied by two golf courses, but it has since become overgrown.
“While the Coalition has tried numerous ways to convince the leadership of City Park to halt construction of a golf course development north of Harrison Avenue, the park has charged full steam ahead with construction. Of immediate concern is the bulldozing of several acres of previously undeveloped wetlands in the Old Couturie Forest,” the Coalition said in a press release prior to filing suit. “City Park does not have the federally required permit for this development. The Coalition is asking the court to order an injunction that ceases construction and requires City Park to fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Louisiana Public Trust Doctrine.”
Coalition members added that they believe the golf course is “likely to be an economic failure,” and is “not wanted by the majority of the people of New Orleans.”
“This Coalition has nothing against golf, we just see that there are plenty of other places to tee off. Since the TPC Westbank course and Audubon course are both losing money, while interest in golf is declining nationally, we don’t see any reason to believe that this planned golf course will make the sort of revenue that City Park says it needs,” the press release reads. “We are concerned that the citizens of New Orleans will end up on the hook for a bailout of City Park.”
City Park CEO Bob Becker had previously told protestors that the golf course would provide necessary funds for the park. He also refuted claims that the planned golf course has not properly been vetted for public comments, saying officials met “at least” five times to discuss the new course.
“We feel it was very open. We’ve had five public meetings through the course of these years, and most of them focused on golf,” Becker said during a board meeting held in February.
The park’s footprint for golf has been reduced from four courses to two under Becker’s tenure, which began in 2001. The South Course was closed in the summer of 2005 and eventually became part of the Big Lake public use walking trail.