Have you noticed? The year 2018 isn’t as far away as it used to be. We are only five years away from the city’s tricentennial, celebrating Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville designating a city at the big bend in the lower Mississippi River. We know that our town will try to host the Superbowl again. (Once again the two weekends of the Carnival parade schedule will have to be bifurcated to accommodate the Suberbowl in the middle weekend as happened this year. Mardi Gras in 2018 is Feb. 13; the Superbowl is scheduled for Feb. 4.)
Getting the Superbowl would be great, but we would like to make another suggestion: Let’s make the Tricentennial Celebration about refocusing on Lake Pontchartrain.
Our lakefront is an underutilized resource, yet it’s as much a part of our history as is the river. Part of what made the site that Bienville selected was the lake system that surrounded it, all the better for trade routes. (In fact the Lemoyne Brothers, Bienville and Iberville, might have seen similarities to their native Montreal which, like New Orleans, is an island surrounded by waterways.)
We could do so much more with our lakefront. There will be those who will complain that increased development will compromise green space; yet the lakefront has miles of green space that’s sparsely used. They will say the development would cause the lake to be polluted. To the contrary, developers would have a vested interest in helping to keep the lake clean.
In eastern New Orleans the lakefront is largely undeveloped thicket. The fishing camps that once lined the way are long gone.
Hurricanes took away much of the activity along the lakefront, but the technology is there to build stronger buildings just as we’re doing with levees. There is a whole new side of the city waiting for attention.
We will go one step further and suggest that somewhere along the revived lakefront there be a tower, a permanent monument of the tricentennial, acting as beacon in the same way that a lighthouse would, but also beckoning the nation to discover our lakefront.
In 1984 when New Orleans hosted a world’s fair, the river got its due. The event helped transform the riverfront from an outdated industrial area to a spot for recreation and leisure. The main building at the current convention center was the former Great Hall built for the fair. The building that now houses Riverwalk was also constructed for the event.
There are more plans for riverfront development and they’re encouraging – its time to pay attention to the lakefront. That could be the legacy of 2018. Now if only the Saints could be in the Superbowl that year …