City breaks ground on Mirabeau Water Garden
Construction on the $31 million Mirabeau Water Garden project is officially underway, according to the Mayor’s Office. This 25-acre site on Mirabeau Avenue between Bayou St. John and the London Avenue Canal will be engineered into a blue-green park, including stormwater detention areas that double as recreational and educational areas, walking paths, pump stations and permeable parking areas.
The Mirabeau Water Garden will showcase stormwater management features developed in the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. The land is the former site of the Congregation of St. Joseph convent.
“This is sacred property, and we’re going to have a fabulous project here that will help retain and store water,” said Ron Spooner, interim general superintendent for Sewerage & Water Board. “This site is going to be the jewel of this community in Gentilly, where everyone can gather and learn about nature and how plants filter pollutants from stormwater and runoff.”
Phase I of the stormwater management design and construction is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration Hazard Mitigation grant program. Planning began in 2017, and the Notice to Proceed was issued to the construction contractor on Dec. 8.
“It’s important not to rush a transformative, catalytic project such as this,” said District D Councilmember Eugene Green. “This project is going to make a difference not only here in Gentilly but also in the way we are viewed on a national and international scale. When we complete this project right, we will be in a good position to procure even more federal funding to do this throughout the city.”
Water will be stored in lagoons and gradually emptied by weirs. Educational buildings and signage will offer education in climate, stormwater management, green infrastructure and public health. Walking paths and play lawns will provide recreational opportunities alongside climate education.
The land was donated to the city by the Congregation of the Sisters of the St. Joseph on the condition that it be used to enhance and protect the neighborhood. The water garden’s innovative site design was embraced by the Sisters of St. Joseph as a vision that, in their own words, “would manifest the holiness and the beauty of this land … and evoke a huge systemic shift in the way humans relate with water and land.”
Many of the Sisters of St. Joseph were present at the groundbreaking and blessed the site.
“A sense of hope has risen here and is now a fever pitch in our hearts,” Sister Pat Bergen said at the ceremony. “Today is finally the day when this holy ground will open and give itself as a gift to the people of New Orleans, lending promise and hope for all flood-prone areas. This land has a vocation. The indigenous Chitimacha tribe, who used to live here, knew the great spirit was present in the land, in the mighty oaks, the water and all creatures.”
Phase II of the Mirabeau Water Garden project is designed to:
- Divert and temporarily store up to 10 million gallons of water from street drainage pipes into a site detention pond to mitigate flooding
- Infiltrate water into the site’s soils to stabilize and limit subsidence
- Clean water of pollutants through native wetlands to improve water quality
- Educate by demonstrating how natural processes can be utilized for more sustainable water management and local ecology
For more information on the Mirabeau projecct, visit nola.gov/stormwater/