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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- City Park was a popular place on Memorial Day. Richard and Mae Donovan celebrated their 41st anniversary here.

'My family used to come out here in the '60s and picnic under the big oak tree,' said Richard Donovan.

'I'm sort of amazed myself, even though I've been a part, along with lots of other people, of the recovery of the park,' said Bob Becker, the CEO of City Park.

But nine years ago, Becker was a worried man. Hurricane Katrina and the flood that followed caused $43 million in damage to the 1,300 acre park.

'We'd lost all of our equipment, all of our buildings, 1,000 trees,' he said in 2007. 'So you know, when we first got here, I had some questions about how quickly we could recover.'

A few months before Katrina, the park's board approved a master plan for improvements to last through 2018, the city's 300th anniversary. They didn't know where they'd find the money for the improvements, but Katrina caught the world's attention, and people from all over responded to rebuild City Park.

'We have raised totally about $117 million to be spent in the park that has been spent or is in the process of being spent,' said Becker. 'Our plan calls for $163 million to be spent in the park by 2018.'

Those funds paid for the Great Lawn, the Big Lake, the festival grounds, 5,000 new trees, a tennis complex, fishing pier, dog park and new amusement rides.

'It's really exciting, and I don't know how to say it,' said 10-year-old Stella Guidry.

Kathy Voitier watched her granddaughter Stella whirl around with glee, a new generation making memories here.

'This is just one of our most favorite places to be,' Kathy Voitier said.

Still to come are a new skate park, roller coaster, and a water park.

'Sort of a really big splash park if you will,' Becker said. 'We hope to open that at the end of 2015, or perhaps at the beginning of 2016, then by 2017 we'll open our new championship golf course.'

And there is one reminder that you can enjoy. The Hurricane Simulator, 125 miles per hour.

'I think it's very cool. I don't want to do it though, I've been through it for real,' was one lady's reaction as she watched the simulator.

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