The Pontchartrain Beach Foundation announced on Monday July 18 that it has submitted a proposal to obtain a lease for the former site of Pontchartrain Beach. The foundation seeks to make it a space for leisure and ecological education for the public.
The proposal is a response to the Request for Proposals issued by the Lakefront Management Authority. The foundation will present its proposal to the Lake Management Authority Recreation Subdivision Committee on Tuesday, July 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Lakefront Airport Terminal 2nd Floor Conference Center, 6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd . The public is invited.
The Pontchartrain Beach amusement park operated on the shores of Lake Gentilly from the early 1930s until 1983, when it closed due to declining attendance, rising insurance costs, problems pollution of the lake and impending competition from the 1984 World’s Fair. Water quality is currently monitored by the Pontchartrain Conservancy, which has declared it safe for swimming.
The University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park, also known as The Beach at UNO, now takes up much of the park that once contained an art deco bathhouse, pools, rides, concession stands and a stage for music concerts featuring top local artists and national tours, including Elvis Presley in a 1955 “Hillbilly Jamboree”.
A mile-long sandy beach also remains where Pontchartrain Beach once thrived. Although the water quality is considered safe, the beach is considered dangerous due to underwater drop-offs and riprap which present dangers for bathers.
“What was once a bustling public beach is now a dangerous, unsightly and environmentally hazardous home for vagrants and rodents,” wrote Guy Williams of the PBF board in a cover letter to the proposal. from the foundation to the Lake Management Authority.
The Pontchartrain Beach Foundation was created to build on efforts over the past 40 years to restore the beach. It is working to redevelop Pontchartrain beach into a public recreational space with a wide range of activities.
“I grew up going to Pontchartrain Beach and have fond memories of that time,” Williams said in a press release. “I work to bring back the beach so that younger generations can create their own memories.”
PBF partnered with Dana Brown & Associates in 2016 to develop a master plan to restore and improve Pontchartrain Beach. In the same year, the foundation undertook to finance, purchase and transport over 51,000 tons of sand for restoration. The sand remains stored on the beach ready to be used.
If the lease is awarded to the site, the PBF plans to conduct additional site analysis, establish a public awareness program, and begin designing waterside improvements and designing landside improvements. He expects the beach to be open to the public in about four years.
He plans to compete for federal dollars available under the US stimulus package, led by former mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The proposed Pontchartrain beach is designed to provide a wide range of spaces and experiences on the underused lakeshore. Program elements and facilities contemplated include:
• an open and secure beach
• two separate coves at the water’s edge, one for non-motorized boats and one for motorized boats
• lawns in the shade of existing holm oaks for sitting, picnicking, playing
• a renovated fishing wharf
• a beach volleyball court
• a separate dog park and dog bathing area for small and large dogs
• piers to protect the beach from erosion
• beach supply to support the beach
• areas for food trucks
• a sales area for renting kayaks, canoes, canoes
• small event spaces, an entrance plaza and toilets.
According to the plan, pedestrians will enter through a plaza, where views open up to the lake. The main walkway will run the full length of the shore along the five beach areas.
Along the promenade, a series of stages and gathering spaces are offered. A semi-circular showcase of sculptures is planned as a backdrop to this space. The most central gathering space is proposed to include beach volleyball courts, food truck areas, and seawall seating.
Another gathering space will include an iconic pavilion that pays homage to when the beach was home to the Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park. Terraced seating at the western end acts as an amphitheater creating a large open space under shade sails.
“New Orleans residents need and deserve a world-class beach. The return of Pontchartrain Beach will serve as a tremendous quality of life amenity for our residents and a catalyst for jobs and economic development opportunities,” said Zach Kupperman, board member of the foundation.
A redevelopment plan is also underway for Lincoln Beach in East New Orleans. From 1939 to 1965—during the era of enforced racial segregation—Lincoln Beach was a lakeside recreation spot for the city’s black population. Pontchartrain Park was only open to white residents until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At that time, according to reports, the city stopped maintaining Lincoln Beach.
Lincoln Beach is a 15-acre site that once featured rides, games, restaurants, a pool in addition to lake swimming and frequent live music performances with artists such as Fats Domino, Nat King Cole and the Neville Brothers.
The city plans to use Restore Act funds to redevelop Lincoln Beach for a scheduled reopening in 2027. The city plan for Lincoln Beach can be viewed here.