Audubon Commission seeking $8.7M for upgrades to The Fly and Magazine Street

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Under the watchful eyes of the lions guarding Audubon Park, cars make the turn off Magazine Street around faded crosswalks. (Robert Morris,

Graffiti in the men’s restroom in the Riverview area behind Audubon Park. (Robert Morris,

As The Fly continues to increase in popularity as a riverfront recreation spot and the uppermost end of Magazine Street continues to suffer under heavy traffic, the Audubon Commission is asking city officials for $8.7 million in long-overdue upgrades to both.

Sprucing up The Fly

The Riverview area behind Audubon Park (commonly called The Fly) seems to be increasing in popularity with the lakefront inaccessible, said Larry Rivarde, managing director of Audubon Zoo and Park, during a recent hearing on the commission’s 2014 budget requests. The sports fields are used by the Carrollton Boosters and Children’s Hospital, while the lawn is used for church picnics, crawfish boils and family reunions.

“College kids are flocking to it like crazy,” Rivarde said.

Specifically, projects Rivarde is proposing for The Fly break down to about $3.6 million:

  • $1.5 million to repave the street along the river. The asphalt is in “deplorable” condition, with potholes and sunken areas that quickly fill with water. “There are so many pot holes up there it’s not even funny,” Rivarde said. “A complete replacement would be a beautiful thing.”
  • $300,000 to renovate the restrooms, which are thought to have been built in the 1970s. “It’s almost impossible to maintain them,” Rivarde said. They would be brought to the standard of a shelter on the St. Charles Avenue side of the park, complete with water fountains that can fill runners’ bottles with cold filtered water.
  • $800,000 to rebuild the sidewalks.
  • $400,000 to upgrade the benches and lighting
  • $600,000 for landscaping and contingency issues.

The project would also include the creation of a dedicated walking and biking path, Rivarde said.

Entering the park

The sidewalk along Magazine is heavily cracked and the curbs have been obliterated because of people parking on them during busy days, Audubon officials say. (Robert Morris,

Meanwhile, traffic on Magazine Street in front of the zoo is only increasing as well. Because Tchoupitoulas ends just before the park, Magazine almost serves as an extension of it for many drivers who are headed further into Carrollton or beyond, and the street is showing the wear.

Steve Dorand, an Audubon Nature Institute vice president, suggested a series of improvements to help with both traffic flow and safety. On one hand, the zoo intersections should be redesigned to decrease bottlenecks, such as with a left-turn lane for Uptown-bound drivers before the entrances.

“The pressure on this street is pretty tremendous,” Dorand said. “If you could make turning lanes, you’d get rid of pressure and the back up.”

On the other hand, the landscaping and design along the street should make it clear to drivers that the end of Magazine is part of a major city park, ultimately calming traffic. Crosswalks should be dramatically upgraded with brick pavers, to give them a more prominent feel and command more attention from drivers as pedestrians and bicyclists cross from the park into the zoo.

“We really feel like we need something like, ‘You’re entering Audubon Park,'” Dorand said. “To us, it’s everything. It’s the main road, the portal to everything in the park.”

Jack Davis, a resident near the park who attended the hearing, praised the improvements being proposed. The crosswalks in particular would help with major safety issues on Magazine Street every day, he said.

“The thing that scares me more than anything is seeing mothers with strollers crossing Magazine,” Davis said.

The major components of the $5.1 million being requested along Magazine Street include the brick crosswalks, bricks for the sidewalks and street paving. Landscaping along Magazine will be improved with more oak trees, irrigation will be added, and the trees will be lit. Street lights will be replaced with those poles more appropriate to the historic nature of the area.

Finding funding
The Audubon requests will ultimately be weighed with other items being sought around the city and included in a new Capital Projects ordinance. There is some unallocated money for parks around the city that might be available for the projects, said Geoffrey Moen, a planner with the City Planning Commission, but he also suggested to Audubon officials that they work to reduce their costs through a variety of means.

The commission still has $400,000 from a 2004 citywide bond issue, and that can help with part of the project. Magazine Street is slated for repaving next year, and much of Audubon Commission’s work could be coordinated with that project. And, Audubon might be able to find community sponsors for some of the higher-profile elements of the improvements to The Fly, such as the new walking and biking trail, Moen suggested.

After the meeting, Rivarde said the commission will look at all those options, but they remain hopeful that the city budget will cover the remainder of the project.

“It’s a great plan,” Rivarde said. “We just hope we can get the funding.”

The deteriorating surface under the playground equipment and old wooden benches along the sidewalk are all overdue for replacement, Audubon officials say. (Robert Morris,

17 thoughts on “Audubon Commission seeking $8.7M for upgrades to The Fly and Magazine Street

  1. $800,000 for sidewalks, $1.5 MILLION to resurface the roadway!!!
    $8,700,000.00 TOTAL !!!

    J-O-B !!!!!

  2. build 2 elevated walkways one from each corner of the Audubon walking loop to give joggers access to the fly without playing leap frog. why build a cross walk that would back up traffic even more. elevated walkway can be arched and give Audubon a grand entrence.

        • With the ever increasing number of events, baby strollers, runners, bicyclists, pedestrians, children running about – it is highly probable that serious accidents have happened on that stretched of Magazine and even more likely to happen in the near future. Let’s look at this from the point of prevention not after the fact.

          • The point is your not going to justify building a 3 story pedestrian bridge at either end of Audubon Park and claim. “…its going to save lives”. Show me the data that says a bridge is not only wanted in this location, but that its warranted. Then prove to me it will be used and not money wasted.

    • Thats a neat “George Jetsonian” idea but ruinous to any budget, unless Donald Trump is picking up the tab. Besides that, elevated pedestrian crosswalks, unless they are the “only” means necessary, are entirely underutilized. People, unless there fitness buffs, are just as content waiting for a lull in traffic rather than climb that hill to cross Magazine. After a couple of years, itll hardly be used at all. Not to mention the traffic issue, while substantial, isnt 8 hrs/day.
      What needs to be done is the entire stretch of Magazine, the whole width of the park, needs to be treated. designed and layed out as a “series of heavily marked, well lighted, completely visible, handicap accessible, pedestrian crosswalks.”
      Most importantly, the Zoo/Audubon commission must stop allowing vehicles to park on top of tree roots…in the fly and along Magazine st near the parking lots (Lions) in particular. The acculumulated compaction of the roots,over the years of parking on them, is cetain to kill many of those trees.
      Do we not have more respect for the Parks most majestic resources than to park vehicles on top of them?

        • We dont really know, but its a safe bet its in the thousands.
          Tires dont kill trees. Compaction kills roots and that is what kills trees. To kill a mature live oak in this manner takes years, as many as 10-15 years. Its a very, very slow suffocation of the trees root system. Therefore, no one ever suspects what the cause was.
          LSU banned parking on the live oak roots years ago, as it was a common practice during football game tailgating. We need to follow suit.

  3. The traffic is the biggest problem, in my opinion, and the dedicated turning lane sounds great. The repaving of the road by the Fly also sounds worthwhile. Other than that, the rest sounds like fluff. $300,000 for upgraded bathrooms sounds high. $400,000 for benches and lighting sounds both high AND crazy. Pavers are pretty, but unnecessary. Lit up trees? Who’s driving through a park a night looking for pretty trees? Changing streetlights to fit “historical nature” of park isn’t worth the money, so long as the existing lights are working. To protect pedestrians crossing, I’d support a short stoplight similar to the one of Prytania at Touro Hospital, something that would only turn red if a passenger waiting pushes a button. Otherwise, I’m sure the city can find better use of its funds. Fix infrastructure problems with city funds and privately raise money for beautification projects.

    • Have you been in those bathrooms lately? I’m guessing they’ll need to completely knock them down and add another one as well. 3 bathrooms @ $100,000 a pop doesn’t sound too far off.

  4. It’s amazing what you can discover at CPC capital budget request hearings. 😉 I wish more people would go.

  5. Why don’t they fence a large, less-used area on the Tchoup side of The Fly for a dog park? Entrance from Tchoupitoulas would be restricted to the users of the annual fee-based dog park – much like the revenue producing one in City Park. Uptowners need a dog park!

  6. The solution, new toilets and streets should be repaved by the City.
    Then, mow the grass.
    When Forman is done, the park will be 100% DEVELOPED.

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