Brechtel Park, Algiers
I’ve written before about Brechtel Park in Algiers, reminding everyone that we have a diamond in the rough – 112 acres on the America’s Wetland Birding Trail that is right in our own backyards and has the potential to rival any other park on the West Bank.
I try to keep up with what’s going on with the park through newsletters from the Friends of Brechtel Park. When my newsletter arrived this week, I was shocked to find out that there is no money (as in zero, zilch, nada) being budgeted by the New Orleans City Council for improvements to the park. In both 2000 and 2004, Brechtel Park was included in bond issuances approved by New Orleans voters. To date, no capital improvements have been made and now there are no funds being allocated for the next FIVE years.
I remember when I was a teen and in my early 20s, the park would be jam packed on the weekends with people picnicking and grilling, fishing, playing baseball or softball and children running up and down the “hills”. I have pictures of my oldest son, who is now 23, fishing with a cane pole from the banks of the lagoon. I have memories of kite flying contests and frisbee games and getting up early on a weekend morning to be sure that we could get a “good spot” to spend the day at.
Curiosity got the better of me after reading the newsletter, so I took a drive through Brechtel this afternoon. It’s a beautiful day…sunny, mild temperatures…perfect for being outside. I can’t begin to express how sad I was that I saw only a handful of people in the park. One family was walking, one was packing up from lunch and playtime and the only person using the baseball field was the gentleman practicing his fly fishing technique. My husband (who used to be a New Orleans police officer) remarked that years ago, there were regular police patrols through the park on the weekends because there were so many people crowding in. That certainly is no longer the case….
From a distance, it’s still just as beautiful as it ever was, even though many of the old trees were lost during Katrina.
Up close, the tell-tale signs of neglect are evident in picnic tables that can’t be used, benches overlooking the lagoon that are overgrown with vines, rusty pipes that used to hold BBQ grills, the old sand lot that is covered in weeds, and the single port-o-let that serves as the restroom for the entire back section of the park.
The original master plan for the park included a butterfly garden, a water park, additional restrooms, a bird viewing tower, a jogging and biking trail, a multi-purpose center and more. After today’s visit, I’d be happy to just see the badly needed repairs done.
What can you do to help?
First, consider joining the Friends of Brechtel Park – volunteer your time or your talent on one of the 13 committees that desperately need a helping hand. There is currently an opportunity to apply for a $50,000 grant from the KABOOM organization to add playground equipment to the park and assistance is needed with the grant application.
Third, make a donation!
I have already volunteered to join the board – won’t you join me?