Friends of City Park is a regional, non-profit organization whose mission is to maintain and increase the value and importance of City Park as a place of natural beauty, culture, recreation and education for the public.
All monies raised by Friends of City Park will be used for the capital needs of City Park at the discretion of the FOCP Executive Board.
At 1,300 acres, New Orleans City Park is one of the largest and most beautiful urban parks in the country. The park houses the largest collection of live oaks in the world and acres of wildlife and community attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and more.
Annually, City Park must raise 89% of its operating budget which leaves little to no resources for park capital improvements. Friends of City Park is vital and important to the Park’s growth. Over the years, Friends has given millions of dollars to City Park for capital improvements.
In the 1970s, lack of local and state funding sent the Park into a state of disrepair. Vice president of City Park’s Board of Commissioners, J. Barbee Winston teamed up with the dynamic Mrs. Henry J. “Peggy” Read to organize the first fundraising organization for the park. Mrs. Read recruited volunteers, drafted a charter and bylaws, and at the urging of the Board of Commissioners President, Waldemar S. Nelson, Friends of City Park was born in 1979. Mr. Nelson selected Mrs. Read as the organization’s first president.
More than 35 years has passed and the projects have been endless. It all started with the restoration of the New Orleans Botanical Garden as we know it today. Friends raised funds to restore the Botanical Garden, erect a fence around the Botanical Garden, and hire its first fulltime director, Paul Soniat, who is still employed by City Park.
In August 2005, City Park and the Greater New Orleans area were dealt a devastating blow from Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system. Over 90 percent of our beautiful park flooded and the park incurred 43 million dollars in damages. All records and archives from City Park and Friends of City Park were decimated, operations ceased and 90 percent of the staff was laid off.
In the months following Hurricane Katrina, Friends of City Park was once again called upon to help the severely damaged Park. Volunteers worked round-the-clock to help with the Park’s recovery. Since 2005, City Park has made monumental improvements, including replanting efforts throughout the entire park, refurbishing classic attractions such as the Botanical Gardens, the Amusement Park, the Casino Building and Storyland. Construction has also been completed on new attractions such as Big Lake, NOLA Bark, the Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn, and City Putt. Membership efforts were revamped and today, Friends of City Park boasts more than 4,000 members.
Friends of City Park sustains its efforts from its robust membership program that offers benefits to Friends’ members. The three major fundraisers are Lark in the Park, our premier fundraiser; Martini Madness, our wildly popular martini tasting; and Ghosts in the Oaks, our spooktacular family bizarre!
The efforts of Friends of City Park sparked a catalyst for change and improvement and started a rebirth of City Park.