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
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.
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.”