By Ethan Ellestad
As a teenager, it is often hard enough to get your voice heard, let alone be taken seriously. Yet, on a hot day in late June, more than 30 young people from the Louisiana Green Corps set out on a tour of the Lafitte Greenway to prove that their opinions and ideas were just as valid as anyone’s twice their age.
Every summer, the Louisiana Green Corps, a non-profit dedicated to providing green job skills training to unemployed, underemployed or otherwise disadvantaged New Orleans youth, host an intensive six week summer program for 14 and 15 year old students.
As a part of this program, members of the Green Corps set their sights on creating a more youth-friendly Lafitte Greenway. On a sun-drenched June day, the group began with some basic maintenance, picking up bits of trash and cutting back the most overgrown areas.
Soon, however, they moved into the bulk of the day’s work. Walking down a stretch of the Greenway, the students took note of the existing assets and imagined the possibilities. One noted that a pair of abandoned tennis courts could be turned into basketball courts. Another suggested that a well-placed snoball stand would be a great way for residents to beat the summer heat. Many of the young people, pointing out the lack of infrastructure along the way, thought several rest stops would provide both shade and a place for people to gather along the path.
Throughout the day, a common refrain was the lack of recreational activities youth currently have in the city. It was agreed that the Greenway, if designed with the needs of young people in mind, could help fill that gap. After a day visiting the actual site of the Greenway, the participating youth then spent the following few days in the classroom, discussing how, if given the chance, they would design the space. Conversations jumped from topic to topic, including such issues as public safety, environmental sustainability, and, of course, recreation. On the final day of the exercise, groups of students presented their ideas, two of which—Lafitte Going Green and Lafitte Corridor Rest Stop—are available online.
Many thanks are due to the Louisiana Green Corps for helping facilitate this effort, and also all the youth who participated. It remains important that young people have their voices heard in the design process, as they are the ones who can best articulate their own needs. If you have a youth group that may want to participate in similar efforts, please e-mail Lafitte Greenway Community Outreach Coordinator Ethan Ellestad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is a modified version of theoriginal, posted at the website of RTC partner Friends of Lafitte Corridor. Photo by Gregory Aycock/Louisiana Green Corps.