The “City of New Orleans,” a new riverboat, is hoping to dock at the Lower Bienville Street Wharf in Woldenberg Park to operate tours this summer. The 190 foot vessel will have a capacity of 1000 passengers and, when not operating its estimated 3 cruises per day, will be permanently berthed just upriver from the Steamboat Natchez.
Here is the problem – to facilitate the boarding of passengers and supplies, New Orleans Steamboat Company must erect a permanent aluminum gangway system composed of ramps and railings on the wharf directly in front of the public Riverwalk Gazebo, visually and physically obstructing one of the most expansive views of the Mississippi River.
The boat has already been built and, in anticipation of its arrival, large maritime bollards were erected around the perimeter of the wharf – all done without benefit of public review. However, to install the gangway structure, the operators must obtain a conditional use from the city, a process requiring public meetings with the City Planning Commission and City Council.
Situated at one of the most unique locations along the pedestrian river walkway, it will divert pedestrians away from a location enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, and one used as a stage during festivals, and a backdrop for ceremonies. At 5 feet wide and stretching approximately 50 feet in either direction from the outer corner of the wharf, the two story structure will reach approximately 20 feet at its peak.
We are firmly opposed to this addition to the riverfront for numerous reasons. Aside from the concerning and conspicuous location, increasing the number of vessels that are permanently docked on the river will, bit by bit, decrease the views and enjoyment of public park space. This is in direct contradiction to the goals stated in the City Charter-mandated Master Plan which emphasizes its commitment to no loss of public parkland while discouraging the conversion of these same spaces to private commercialized uses.
At this time, the applicants have only initiated the conditional use process by holding the required Neighborhood Participation Plan meeting. They are expected to file their application to appear in front of the City Planning Commission in the next few months. VCPORA will share the date of that hearing when it is made public but urge you to submit your own comments to the city by emailing the City Planning Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.