New Orleans neighbors revitalize lots ruined by Katrina

The flood that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left behind acres of devastation in New Orleans neighborhoods.

The longtime eyesore is now the site of an urban forest in the making. Photo: New Orleans AdvocateThe longtime eyesore is now the site of an urban forest in the making.
Photo: New Orleans Advocate

One such lot, which has stood abandoned and neglected for a nearly a decade, recently was transformed into an urban forest by one of its neighbors with help from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA).

Lawrence and Barbara Bank can remember what the lot across the street from their home looked like before Katrina: a row of three well-maintained homes, complete with a lighted brick wall under a canopy of trees.

“After Katrina, it was nothing but a big sea of grass and weeds,” Barbara Bank told the New Orleans Advocate. “And every day, I’d walk outside and think of what used to be there.”

The Banks wanted to replace the blight in their neighborhood by buying the lots and creating a small, tidy forest. They worked with Jerry Graves, NORA’s director of land stewardship, to get the lot into the agency’s alternative-maintenance project, through which NORA keeps ownership of the land while the Banks maintain it.

NORA contractors installed an irrigation system on the property and planted 216 trees, including swamp red maple, bald cypress, nuttall and willow oaks, gingko, forest pansy redbud, Southern and sweetbay magnolias. The Banks will mow the grass between the trees and turn on the irrigation system when needed.

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