Officials in the city of New Orleans have considered installing artificial turf along parts of the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground to protect it from the wear and tear of both large crowds at Mardi Gras and even the daily activity of runners.
Last year, the department had previously requested $2 million for a “St. Charles Avenue Neutral Ground Restoration” that would repair landscaping in the neutral ground using “grass pavers” between the streetcar tracks along the Mardi Gras parade route, and a form of artificial turf called “Celebration Bermuda” along the rest of the neutral ground. That request did not receive funding in the current year’s budget, and the department dropped it from its list of proposed projects for the next year, department director Ann Macdonald told city planners last week.
The department now worries that the level of normal pedestrian traffic in the neutral ground may even wear out artificial turf, making the project even more costly than efforts to maintain the grass. Similar experiments to protect the turf in Lafayette Square have also seen extensive wear during the weekly concert series, Macdonald said, so the daily activity on St. Charles might quickly destroy even the artificial turf.
“It’s going to be extremely costly,” Macdonald told the city officials. “We don’t know for sure if even the Turf — that is a particular turf that’s used on ball fields — could even withstand that. We’ve kind of retreated so we can do some more research.”
The department has also considered green infrastructure pavers in the neutral ground, but officials with the Regional Transit Authority oppose the idea, MacDonald noted, because they worry it would encourage even more people to use the streetcar tracks for running.
“We just recognize that St. Charles Avenue project requires a lot more research, because we don’t want to get funding to do something like that and it not be sustainable,” Macdonald said.
Ways to protect the grass on the avenue remain under investigation, the mayor’s office said afterward.
“The turf replacement project was proposed to repair the avenue from daily use by pedestrians and runners as well as additional Mardi Gras and streetcar traffic,” said Erin Burns, a spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “The Department of Parks and Parkways is holding on that request as they research a turf that can withstand the high pedestrian daily use.”