City may start charging Bayou St. John festivals for usage

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 11:26 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 13 at 11:41 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORELANS -- Bayou St. John continues to emerge as a popular destination for festivals in New Orleans.

Now a neighborhood group and the city are challenging how the land will be used moving forward.

"This was a tree that was struck by lightning during Hurricane Isaac," said Jared Zeller, founder of Bayou Boogaloo, pointing to a commissioned sculpture along the popular waterway.

Every spring live performances, picnic blankets and kayaks line the banks of Bayou St. John during Bayou Boogaloo. The festival draws music, art and food lovers from across the city.

The free neighborhood celebration returns in May, but this year to Zeller's dismay, you may have to buy tickets.

"I was shocked by the amount the city has put a price tag to use the land. I'm wondering where the number came from," said Zeller.

His Mothership Foundation, which organizes the event, recently got word from the city of New Orleans Department of Property Management that it could cost $10,000 for the weekend event.

Up until now, the venue has been free. Zeller said the change was sparked by the city claiming ownership of the land that's been under dispute.

"Is this land being compared to Woldenberg Park for example? Because there's certainly not the infrastructure that exists out there. No power out here, there's no running water," said Zeller of the new proposed fee.

"A lot of these festivals come out because it's good free space or cheap space. Well, these are our homes," said Barbara-Jean Lichtfuss.

The Parkview Neighborhood Association President addressed a small crowd at Monday night's Mid-City Neighborhood Association meeting. Lichtfuss is a member of the Greener Bayou Saint John Coalition, which wants tighter restrictions on the number of festivals held in the area and clearer guidelines on how the bayou is maintained.

"We've more recently had many kind of events happening on the bayou that create some degree of havoc," said Lichtfuss referencing noise, litter and abandoned watercraft.

As one of the city's many gems grows in popularity, one group stresses it's time to set boundaries even if that means charging groups to use the public space.

"To come up together with a plan for activities and festivals, etc. that everybody can live with," said Lichtfuss.

The Greener Bayou Saint John Coalition plans a study hoping for community feedback that will then be forwarded to the New Orleans City Council for review.

A city spokesperson said ownership of that stretch of Bayou Saint John remains unclear and is being researched by the city attorney. The city also confirms that a proposed "fee schedule" for events at Bayou Saint John is being reviewed.

To read more on this story visit our partners at Mid-City Messenger.

 

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