Posted on May 31, 2023
The old Pontchartrain Beach is overgrown, unsightly, and no longer safe for swimming.
A plan to restore the once treasured spot on the New Orleans lakefront, where generations went to beat the heat was just rejected by the Lakefront Management Authority.
“The real frustration is that it’s been 40 years since the beach closed,” said Guy Williams who heads up the Pontchartrain Beach Foundation.
Back in the day, Pontchartrain Beach was more than just a place to swim. There were amusement rides, concession stands and a place for live concerts. It closed in 1983.
The Pontchartrain Beach Foundation had hoped to reopen the beachfront with a renovated fishing pier, beach volleyball area and places for food trucks and other amenities. Thursday, nine months of negotiations with the LMA fell apart, amid public opposition and concerns over traffic, trash and security.
“Nobody won in this decision,” said Phalon Cornist from the Lake Oaks Civic Association. “Lake Oaks did not get the things that they needed. Lake Terrace didn’t get the things that they needed in the lease, but most of all the city of New Orleans didn’t get a beach.”
Williams claims the LMA wanted too much in the deal.
He says the authority wanted to charge them to rent the beach and then pay all the expenses including insurance, security, maintenance, and cleanup.
“We were a public benefit foundation offering to get money to rebuild the beach, put millions back into restoring it, but we’re not the Marriott, you know, we’re not Disney. We don’t have a lot of money.”
Williams says he isn’t closing the door on anyone. But at this point, it’s not likely the foundation will submit a new proposal.
Cornist now hopes some other group will come up with a new plan for the beach.
“This beach is gorgeous,” he said. “We want it done right. It is something that is sitting under our nose and we have not had a chance to access it in many, many years.”
Williams says the foundation stands ready to work with whoever the LMA now chooses to redevelop Pontchartrain Beach.
The authority did not respond to our request for comment.