A letter from City Park’s CEO, Bob Becker
As a generous Park supporter, I want to give you an update on how the Park is doing during this crisis and what precautions you should be taking if you use our open spaces. City Park’s leadership has been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) global health emergency. Our first priority is always the health and safety of park visitors, staff, supporters, volunteers, friends, and neighbors. As you know, Governor Edwards and Mayor Cantrell implemented a Stay-at-Home order to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
While staying indoors is critical during this time, if you must get air, exercise, or walk your dog, we implore you to listen to the CDC’s recommendations for cleanliness and social distancing. City Park’s open spaces are accessible for passive solitary recreational use only. Most facilities, bathrooms, playgrounds, and work-out equipment areas are closed.
In regards to our operations, the Park generates 90% of its operating income through self-generated revenues. Virtually all of that revenue has now been cut off through group cancellations of weddings and events or from closures of Park facilities ordered by the government. Below are a few key take-aways on our current standing due to the impact of park closures and what we are doing to help ourselves:
• While we have some reserves built up since Katrina, they will only carry us a few months. Therefore, we have frozen hiring, eliminated overtime, cancelled non-essential contracts, we are negotiating with vendors, furloughed all part time employees, and have implemented an across the board pay reduction in order to extend the time we can employ staff until the restrictions are lifted.
• We have informed the Commissioner of Administration and the Deputy Commissioner of our situation. We have also informed our Louisiana State representative and senator of the situation.
• We have made an appeal to the Commissioner for direct financial assistance from the State for the next six months at a minimum. The State did put us in the State operating budget for three years after Katrina to help us stabilize.
• I have agreed to stay as the Park’s CEO for at least another year and the search process will be indefinitely suspended.
We all know it is a very trying time, but our management team is doing our very best to respond to the crisis. Along the guidance from the Governor, we anticipate the upcoming weeks to be our most trying weeks for our healthcare system and community. We will keep you abreast of how we continue to navigate our operations during this time and any updates that may be insightful for you as a supporter. We have seen an influx in Park users since the pandemic began, creating a demand on our walk-ways, trails, and open spaces. Our team is on the ground ensuring that we continue to maintain grounds, trash, and horticulture, to the best of our ability.
Now, and every day, parks are vital to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. City Park is one of the region’s treasures – it is the people’s Park. We are currently researching all public and private funding sources. You matter to us now more so than ever. We thought Katrina was our biggest challenge, but we were wrong, because of the length of time of the restrictions and the uncertainty around the shape of the recovery we will need private support like never before.
We ask that you help us keep the community’s collective health in mind through our resources and welcome the opportunity to discuss with you on how you can contribute. You can make a donation at any time by clicking here or by calling Casie Duplechain, our Chief Development Officer, at 504-415-7987.
For the most up-to-date information, please visit the City Park COVID-19 Update page on the City Park website.
We hope that you, your family, friends, and loved ones are staying healthy.
Robert W. Becker, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
New Orleans City Park