Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

I am so proud to be named one of the Urban Conservancy‘s 2014 Urban Heroes.

What, me a hero? I am not much afflicted with the infamous vice of false modesty, but I have to admit this makes me blush just a little.

Yes, the Lafitte Greenway in now under construction, but after all, I am not the one pouring asphalt and concrete, erecting lampposts and so forth.

Fresh Concrete

Lights on the Greenway

The award comes for my work with FOLC, of course. FOLC has played a vital role in advocating for the greenway. I think it’s safe to say that this work would not be underway presently if it wasn’t for FOLC’s advocacy.

I’m a founding member of FOLC, and I served as president of the group for three years. It’s because of that intimate involvement that I know just how much of a team effort this has been.

So while I will indeed revel in this little slice o’ glory, I’m mindful of the following fact: all I did was help start something.

Wanna be startin’ somethin’?

That’s right, I’m referencing Michael Jackson. I can do that because a) we’re both from Indiana and b) what with this Urban Hero designation I’m almost as famous as him now.

Look: starting something is actually the easiest part. Anyone can start something. People start things all the time, things that don’t last, things that fail to launch. The difficult part is keeping it going — sustaining the effort past the first initial blush of enthusiasm. That’s where the hard work comes in. After the inspiration, perspiration.

That’s where the team effort comes in. This project was blessed with the attention and support of a diverse group of people who brought an array of strengths with them to the table. If it had just been me, the project would have gone nowhere. I’ve piled up a few projects like that over the years. But instead, this project bloomed because people wanted it, and they pursued it with patience, focus, passion, and an attention to detail I could certainly never have mustered on my own.

To those many people who contributed their precious time and effort over the last nine years, I am extremely grateful.

Now get your tickets and help me celebrate.

Advocating the Greenway

Greenway Foldout

The New Orleans Advocate has a nice story by Andrew Vanacore on the greenway, including a couple quote from yours truly.

Also, Here are a a couple items which I should have noted when I posted last week:

  1. Yes, they are about to start work on the greenway. At last. As the Advocate article notes, it’s been almost nine years since I took my first hike along the Lafitte Corridor. Over the years the project has encountered many setbacks and challenges. I keep pinching myself, but this seems to be really happening.
  2. Not too long ago, Friends of Lafitte Corridor had their annual board elections. It was a historic moment, as the last of the founding board members rotated off at last because of term limits. I was deeply impressed by the slate of high-quality candidates. In a nutshell, it seems that FOLC is in good hands and there’s a lot of energy and momentum there.

    Even more than winning that Hero award, this development has me feeling that FOLC will be around for a while. It’s stunning to me, not to mention gratifying, that something I helped start has taken on a life of its own. Sure, the physical infrastructure of the greenway will be great, but without a living, breathing friends group, it will never reach its full potential. Plenty to do. Rock on, FOLC.

Continue reading Advocating the Greenway

My FOLC Tale


I’ve got a new essay up at Friends of Lafitte Corridor.

Most if not all of the major spiritual traditions on our planet seem to embrace the path as a metaphor. Maybe that’s why I’ve found the prospect of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor so inspiring over the years. There’s been something very compelling about imagining a trail in what is currently fallow, empty land — and treading that ground with others who share the dream each year.

You should go read the rest on the FOLC site.
Continue reading My FOLC Tale


On the Friday before the equinox, I caught a ride with Daniel Samuels up to the Old Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge. It was built by Huey P. Long in 1930. There was a really cool version of the state seal carved into the fireplace in the library.


But I wasn’t there for the architectural details. I was there for an award luncheon. It was a special honor to meet for the first time the other two finalists in the Louisiana Cox Conserves Heroes contest, Landry Camardelle and Wilma Subra.


There were a lot of people there. Turned out it was also the culmination of the Keep Louisiana Beautiful conference. So we had a great lunch in a big fancy room and a bunch of people got a bunch of awards for a bunch of good work. Meanwhile, as they led up to the Cox Conserves Heroes Award, I was on pins and needles. Who would win?

Wilma and Landry certainly had inspiring stories of their own, but since the winner was chosen by an online vote, I knew that it would come down to who had waged the most effective internet campaign. I thought I had a good shot because understanding social media is part of my job. I’d been posting on on various networks daily, begging for votes and asking people to share the link in hopes of expanding my reach.

And, in the end, it worked. I won.


But really I should say: We won.

Sure, I got my little moment of glory, and that was sweet and euphoric and extremely gratifying to my always-hungry ego. But the big $10,000 check isn’t for me. It’s for Friends of Lafitte Corridor. Exactly how they’ll use the money, I don’t know. Perhaps it will go toward hiring an Executive Director. That would be a major boost toward FOLC’s mission of building, programming and promoting the Lafitte Greenway. The other finalists got some money for their causes as well, but they both agreed it will make an even bigger difference for FOLC.

So that’s a victory for all of us, especially for folks who live in the New Orleans area, but also for anyone who gives a damn about health, sustainability, and a greener future.

Thanks to Cox Communications and the Trust for Public Land for organizing and funding the contest.

Thank you for voting for me. And thank you for allowing me this opportunity to represent such important values as community, ecology, and good old-fashioned grassroots organizing.

For this, I am grateful.

Make Me a Hero



A nonprofit I helped found, the Friends of Lafitte Corridor, has a shot at $10,000. Here’s how: You have to vote for me.

FOLC nominated me for the Louisiana Cox Conserves Heroes program. Now I’m a finalist.

While I’m deeply honored to have gotten this far, I really want to see us win this thing. And that’s a tough challenge. Because I’m competing against some pretty awesome people.

So vote. Sure. That’s the first step.

Then share this link with everyone you can. Use your fancy social media networks or send a good old-fashioned email.


If you know anyone who supports the recovery of New Orleans — anyone who like the idea of a multiuse urban greenway — anyone who likes bicycles and walking — anyone who wants a greener future for our children — please share this with them.

Thanks for your support. And check back here next week for a real update on me and my life.

With or Without Me

Hike Panorama

The coolest thing about this year’s hike, from my personal perspective, is that I’ve had hardly anything to do with organizing the event. (Term limits, y’know.) Yet still it chugs along. That’s extremely gratifying.

But there are other cool things: This year we’re reversing direction, hiking toward the river for a change, so people can tap into French Quarter Fest if they so desire. Also we’ve got a brass band this year. It was just a matter of time. Aaaaand this really should be your last chance to hike the corridor in its current (neglected) state as I just heard plans are to break ground in October.

Please join us as we TAKE A HIKE along the Lafitte Greenway on Saturday, April 14, 2012. The annual hike is roughly 3 miles, and parts of the path are overgrown and weedy. So dress accordingly, and you might want to bring some sunscreen. Flip-flops are probably not appropriate footwear!

9:30 AM: Bike Easy will hold a bicycle safety workshop in the Delgado Community College parking lot. Bike Easy will also offer FREE bike valet services for all participants of the hike.

10 AM: Meet at the Delgado Community College in the parking lot (parking and bike valet available).

1 PM: Finish at Congo Square in Armstrong Park with a culminating celebration featuring Baby Boys Brass Band, refreshments and more.

2 PM: Head to French Quarter Fest!

These times are tentative, as we’ll be hiking in small groups with plenty of fun activities along the way. Different groups will probably move at different speeds.

The Hike and Bike Valet are both FREE and open to the public.

Please register in advance to help us gauge how many participants to expect. The more the merrier!

And just in case it’s not clear, I will be there hiking with the rest of y’all. In fact I’m a Greenway Ambassador so I should be leading a small group. Maybe you’ll be in my group. See you there.


Most if not all of the major spiritual traditions on our planet seem to embrace the path as a metaphor. Maybe that’s why I’ve found the prospect of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor so inspiring over the years. There’s been something very compelling about imagining a trail in what is currently fallow, empty land — and treading that ground with others who share the dream each year.

Slowly, slowly, we’ve made progress. Plans are underway. We expect the City of New Orleans to break ground for the greenway next year. This will be a great new public space for the citizens of New Orleans.

Planning continues. The initial build will be minimal: just a trail, with no recreational amenities along the way. Those can come later, but will require full community engagement. And certainly with upkeep and maintenance, to say nothing of improvement, the greenway will never be “done,” as in finished, as in requiring no further attention. There’s plenty of work still to do.

I’m very excited about the prospects for the greenway, and very proud of the role I’ve played in moving it forward. I convened the inaugural hike in May of 2005; I was a founding member of Friends of Lafitte Corridor; I’ve served as FOLC’s president for the last three years.

And yet. And yet. And yet.

Over the last six months or so I’ve felt curiously detached. I missed some meetings because of schedule conflicts and family issues, so that got me feeling a bit out of the loop. Yet it’s more than that. I’m not very detail-oriented, at least not for these kinds of details; I’ve never been able to get down in the weeds of the various planning documents and so forth. Fortunately others have played that role, but that’s left me wondering about my own role. Maybe I’m the kind of person who likes to get things started, which is different than what it takes to keep things going. Yet again, it’s more than that.

In December we got a visit from the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. It was a singular experience, sharing the podium with a highly placed official from the federal government.

Urban Waters Visit

I took my talking points from fellow FOLC board member and past president Daniel Samuels. Yet I felt that I made the speech my own, and I felt that I delivered it in a way that reflected well on my group and my city.

It was a proud moment for me, personally. I felt a sense of renewal. Had I questioned my role? This, this was my role. I can stand here with authority figures and, you know, represent.


I’m ashamed to report that my thoughts did not end there. I also thought: Who else in our group could do this? No one! Only me, me, me.

Such egotism. Such hubris. Even if it’s true, it’s still hubris. Because, you see, I wasn’t born this way. In fact for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a lone wolf, if you will, neither a follower nor a leader. That’s how I’ve been perceived by others as well, but I daresay that’s changed in the last five years or so.

I recall quite clearly that last time I expressed a fear of speaking in public. It was in early 2007. A few days later, I spoke to a crowd of thousands. It was a terrible moment, one which I sincerely wish had never transpired, but even so it was a transformational moment, for me. Crises often are.

It’s not so strange. Few of us are prepared for life. We’re thrust onto the stage, and we do the best we can. We discover our inner resources when we need them. If I’ve been effective as president of FOLC, it’s because I was tempered by such events: The flooding of New Orleans, the March for Survival, and others.

It was very easy to stand there at the podium and think that I was irreplaceable. That was a sure sign that I needed to be replaced. FOLC’s successful advocacy of the greenway has been a team effort, remarkably free of this sort of egotism. No one else in the group will develop to their fullest potential while I’m hogging the limelight. No one will step up until I step aside. I’ve had a good run, but now it’s time for someone else. Our potential is developed when we move in to fill a vacuum, and that only happens when the crisis is ripe.

Reaching My Limit

So when we had our strategic planning session a short time later, the discussion of term limits resonated with me in a new way. I realized our organization needed term limits. I’d thought that I would hold on until we broke ground, but once the idea got in my head I realized that would not be fair. I also realized that I personally was ready for a break, right now.

We adopted limits at our next board meeting, and guess what? I’m at the end of my term. I’m glad for that. We could have configured things differently, but I made it clear that I thought this would be best for the organization and for the greenway. I was compared to both Jesus and Kim Jong Il, which was flattering and a little weird.

Officially I’ve got a few more days, and believe me I am counting them. (These final moments of my tenure have not been devoid of drama.) It’s been a great ride for me personally. I don’t know who FOLC’s next president will be, but I do know the board is chock-full of talented and motivated people. Someone will rise to the occasion, and I hope they find the experience just as rewarding.

I’ll still be around and involved of course. April 14, 2012, will be our eight annual hike. Save the date and join us.

Meanwhile the path I walk daily is leading me elsewhere for a while.

Greenway Planning Meetings: Your Participation Is Critical

Chip Game

These meetings are coming up week after next. This is what FOLC has been working for these last five years. These meetings will begin to shape what the greenway will be. If you’ve got specific ideas, this is how to let them be known. Or just come to learn about the Lafitte Corridor and give your gut reactions.

Lafitte Corridor Connection Kick-Offs
Monday, August 15th – 6PM to 8PM
TWO LOCATIONS: Sojourner Truth Community Center located at 501 N. Galvez Street and Grace Episcopal Church located at 3700 Canal Street.

Lafitte Corridor Connection Open Studio and Community Focus Groups
Daily August 15th-19th – 10AM to 5:30PM
Sojourner Truth Community Center located at 501 N. Galvez Street.
(Studio hours are extended August 16th-18th to 7PM to play the Greenway Design and Land Use Chip Game)

Lafitte Corridor Connection General Community Meeting
Saturday, August 20th – 8:30AM to 12:00PM
Delgado Community College, City Park Campus – Student Life Center

Help spread the word by sharing this info with your friends and neighbors. Broad participation is key. The greenway must reflect the desires of the community if it is to succeed.

Cross-posted from FOLC website.

Lane in the Lens

I’m mentioned briefly in an article published by The Lens: Homeowner or homeless? St. Louis Street resident fights to hang on to what he has.

Hughes is convinced that the gathering momentum against him stems from backers of the Lafitte Greenway, the linear park planned along the abandoned railroad tracks that parallel the canal across from his home. Bart Everson, president of the Friends of Lafitte Corridor, said that while there have been conversations with Hughes about his use of park space for storing building materials and raising chickens, his house is not targeted by the project.

Indeed, the first I’d heard of this was when Karen Gadbois called me today while I was shopping at a thrift store in Vero Beach. I was only vaguely aware of Lane Hughes as the guy who (apparently) was raising some chickens on the old LIFT site, as I observed during our Greenway Ambassador training day.


I wish him the best of luck.

Mid-City Market

There is an unfortunate pattern which sometimes emerges in local reportage, wherein community groups are incorrectly depicted as opposed to economic development. In reality, most community groups merely want to be engaged in the development process to ensure the highest quality outcome. I’ve seen it happen before, and so I get a little nervous sometimes.

Happily in this morning’s paper we have a different scenario. It feels like we got out ahead of the story for once. Rather than being framed as obstructionist we are actually taking credit for generating investment. The reality is of course more nuanced than a single newspaper article will convey. I can’t say more without undermining the win, so I’ll shut up. You can read the story, in which I am quoted, and decide for yourself.

And don’t forget to read between the lines.
Continue reading Mid-City Market

Kicked Off


This morning was the Lafitte (Corridor) Greenway Strategic Kickoff Meeting. It ran from 7:30 to 9:00 AM, which was a tad problematic for me. I’m usually getting my girl to daycare around 9 AM, and I really hate to rush our morning routine. Yesterday morning, she got into a mood and hid under the dining room table. “I don’t want to go to school!” So I was apprehensive. But she was understanding. She knows I go to meetings all the time, and when I explained I had a very important one this morning, and that they were starting without me, she was intrigued and even cooperative. “Why are they starting without you?” Bottom line: I got her to daycare at 7:50 and made it to the kickoff meeting at Basin Street Station around 8:15. I was late and I was sweaty but at least I was there.

After the kickoff the planners started a tour of the corridor. I had hoped to take the day off and stick with them for the whole thing, but we’re doing our big annual seminar here at work this week, and so duty called me away.

Nevertheless I’m excited. Things are happening. Work has actually begun already. Surveyors were sighted on the corridor a couple weeks ago. I expect the first public planning meeting will take place some time in August.

Hike Report 2011

We had almost 400 people hiking the Lafitte Corridor this year. We had two City Council members and a Senator. We had planners from Design Workshop. But there were two people in particular I was especially happy to have with me.

Stroller Hike

This is the first time Persephone or Xy made the hike. Persephone can perhaps be excused for missing the first three, since she hadn’t been born yet.

There were a few problems. For example, I got a bit of a sunburn. Yes, I applied sunscreen, but not in all the right places, apparently. The backs of my calves got it especially bad. But all in all I was happy with how everything came together.

I’m utterly astonished at how this event has grown — from three people in 2005 to something like 380 or 390 this year.

Hike Growth

This is way beyond anything I could do on my own. It was a team effort more than ever this year. Even compiling a list of all our sponsors and partners and helpers is a challenge, there are that many.

Not bad for a small group of volunteers working in their spare time. And the trail hasn’t even been built yet.

And to think it all started with an offhand comment my friend David Bryan made as we walked by the bayou one day six years ago. To think how much has gone down since then, and how much has changed, how much we’ve lost, and how much we’ve accomplished, and how much remains to be done. It makes my head spin.

I’ve posted a few more facts and figures and choice quotations on the FOLC website, so if you’re interested check it out.

The Good News

Good News

I’ve been walking around with a big goofy grin for the last week. I got the news last Thursday. It seems that the City of New Orleans has at last signed the contract with Design Workshop that will allow the planning and design and eventual construction of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor.

Finally! This is something I’ve been working on with Friends of Lafitte Corridor for five years. (In fact it’s been a personal vision of mine for six years.) We were excited when Design Workshop was selected last summer. Since then, we’ve been on pins and needles wondering when the contract would get hammered out and signed by all parties.

Not that we’ve been idle. We’ve continued to work on a multitude of initiatives to ensure the greenway idea continues to advance. We believe this will be a positive and deeply transformational project for the city of New Orleans. Consider the possibilities for sustainable water design. If this project eventually leads to less street flooding — how cool would that be? And that’s just one example.

Such things don’t just happen by accident. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve done much of anything by myself. All progress to date is the result of lots of hard work by lots of talented and passionate and committed individuals. We’re not superhuman; we’ve faced issues of fatigue and burnout and impatience and frustration just like everyone else.

That’s why good news like this means so much to us.

This is actually the second time Design Workshop has been selected for this project. Under the previous administration, we got as far as a signed contract, but a “notice to proceed” was never issued. When that contract was terminated, it was a major setback for the greenway, and very discouraging to all of us. Now, in the space of a few days, we have not only a contract, but also the “notice to proceed.” It’s heartening to see this indication of Mayor Landrieu’s commitment to the greenway. We look forward to working with Design Workshop and the City of New Orleans to engage the community in the planning and design process. Very little has been decided yet. The fun is just beginning. This is what we’ve been working for.

We’re still waiting for the City to issue their official press release, but I’m sorry — I just couldn’t hold back any longer.

Good News / Jonathan Moreau / BY-NC-ND 2.0


Some months ago, at a meeting with some folks from the Rails to Trails Conservancy, I was bemoaning the difficulties of sustaining our outreach efforts in Friends of Lafitte Corridor. As an all-volunteer organization, we often run into limits of time and energy, and burnout is an ever-present danger. Kelly Pack suggested the idea of creating an “ambassador” program, and while I might have been skeptical at first, I soon saw the light.

See, over the last couple years, our annual hike of the Lafitte Corridor has gotten so large that we’ve been thinking a new approach is necessary. In 2009 I essentially led a group of 200 people on a three-mile hike all by myself. Oh, I had some help, but it was mostly me. It’s a far cry from how we started in 2005 with just three people.

And so it dawned on me that an ambassador program could solve this problem. Our primary outreach event is the hike, and so that could be the first thing for ambassadors to do. We could break the single monolithic horde into small groups, each led by a Greenway Ambassador.

A fantastic idea — which would have remained as nothing but an idea if it was just me. I don’t have the capacity to make that idea a reality. Fortunately FOLC has recently gotten an infusion of fresh blood. Our years of organizing seem to be paying off. We now have a critical mass of committed people working together such that ambitious ideas like this can be realized.

I saw the proof Saturday morning at Delgado, at our first Greenway Ambassador training.


Look how many people are in that photo! Adding in the off-camera organizers, we were at capacity with thirty people in attendance. I hasten to add that I didn’t do a damn thing to put this together. I just showed up and made my standard presentation. This event was organized by other people, namely Maggie Tishman and Matt Rufo. I can’t express how excited I am by that fact.

I mentioned being at capacity. We had two vans, fifteen people each, and every seat was full. We shuttled down to Armstrong Park and started walking.

Pre-Hike Begins


You never know what you might see when you get out and start walking.


Festival of Bulbs


X Spot

Thanks also to Rails to Trails Conservancy for underwriting lunch at Bud’s Broiler.


If you’re interested, you can see even more photos of the day’s events.

Please note this was not the annual hike. Think of it as a pre-hike. The real deal is April 16. I hope you’ll join us — you can register now.

Become a Greenway Ambassador

Oops, time is getting away from me, but good things are happening. I also posted this on the FOLC site, but frankly my blog gets more traffic. See, we’re planning to do this year’s hike of the Lafitte Corridor in small groups instead of one monolithic horde. To pull that off we need a critical mass of “ambassadors.” So, if you’re local, I hope you’ll consider signing up for this.

Do you care about the Lafitte Corridor?
Become a Greenway Ambassador!

What does a Greenway Ambassador do?

  • Learn about the history of and future plans for the Lafitte Corridor
  • Share this knowledge with the community, including at the Hike on April 16
  • Help keep your community engaged with the greenway project

What’s in it for you?

  • Free Greenway Ambassador t-shirt
  • Learn local history while helping make history as we prepare for the Greenway
  • Meeting neighbors who are as supportive of the Greenway as you are!

Becoming a Greenway Ambassador includes a training on Saturday, April 2 at 10:00 a.m.


If you have any questions, please email Maggie Tishman at mtishman |at| ccano |dot| org.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested. I’ll be posting more about the hike itself soon.