Hope exists for Pontchartrain Beach to reopen to public
9th July 2012 · 0 Comments
By Mary LaCoste
The Lake Pontchartrain Foundation is hard at work trying to reopen the old Pontchartrain Beach now under the control of the University of New Orleans. According to the Director of the Foundation, Dr. John Lopez, the group is working toward a renovated, safe and supervised public beach and swimming area when “time and funding are right.”
The Foundation has a nice track record. It was among the forces that cleaned up the lake and today gives reports, online, of current bacteria counts. They are helping with the rebuilding of the symbolic light house at West End, soon to house a Lake Pontchartrain museum and view of the lake. Their annual fundraiser, Back to the Beach, held recently, was a financial success.
This summer, the University of New Orleans fenced off the last large stretch of beach for safety because of recent drownings at the poorly maintained area. Now, only one beach is left, the one at Seabrook Bridge. Attractive but small, it has no lifeguard and shares space with a boat launch. two weeks ago a little boy drowned there.
Jerry Gillen, of the New Orleans Levee Board, saddened by the drowning, says people should only consider swimming in the lake if they are expert swimmers. Children need close supervision and should wear flotation devices. Panic is the worst enemy of a swimmer in trouble. Swallowing water, they sink in the murky waters, difficult for rescuers to find.
The lake, with its heavy surf, makes the maintaining of safe areas somewhat difficult. One inexpensive solution is pictured in the June National Geographic. It involves building a walled area out from the shore, the side by the sea designed to be is a little lower so tides can come in and out to refresh the water. Mexico also has some oceanside pools like this. So far, this had not been attempted locally.
The lake end of Kenner is developing recreation areas but it is centered more on boating and beach volleyball. As of yet, there are no safe swimming facilities. Future Orleans Parish possibilities include the site of Lincoln Beach, now unsafe but ripe, some say, for redevelopment as a water park and swimming beach.
Lake Pontchartrain’s shore is the entire northern border of New Orleans. It offers lovely spaces for picnicking, fishing and viewing the water. But don’t try swimming there as there is only the beach at Seabrook and miles of slippery cement sea wall steps. While the water is refreshing and less polluted than most American lakes, New Orleans people who want to take their families swimming are advised to travel and hour to the Fontainebleau State Park on the north shore of the lake or drive further to Grand Isle or the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
New Orleanians deserve better.
This article originally published in the July 9, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.