FRIENDS’ MEMBERS

The Power of Parks

A PROFILE ON DR. EDGAR (DOOKY) CHASE, III

He is a writer of historical fiction, a career educator, a civic leader, and a Friend of City Park.  His family’s impact on New Orleans cuisine is unparalleled.  And during the Covid-19 shutdown, we caught up with him as he reflected on sweet memories of his family and the park he holds dear. 

In mid May, New Orleans native, Dr. Edgar Chase, III, pulled up to City Park during his favorite part of the day.  Despite it being 7:50 a.m., the fields of orange, yellow, pink and purple wildflowers were teaming with admirers.  With his mask on and a hot cafe au lait in hand, Edgar greeted every person he passed as he made his way to the front of the fields. Taking in a long contemplative look at the people enjoying the blooms, he let out a sigh and said, 

“I like to see families enjoying themselves. Can you imagine a more beautiful sight to behold especially during these times? This park is a healthy environment for all generations to enjoy life. New Orleans is lucky to have this.”

Edgar has held many important roles in Louisiana academia.  Most recently, he had been in the top academic seat at Delgado Community College’s program for entrepreneurs, 10,000 Small Businesses, and previously led facilities planning and management for Dillard University.  Since his retirement in 2013 he spends his time writing and supporting his family as they run their legendary restaurant, Dooky Chase. Like most Americans during this period, we found Mr. Chase with a little extra time on his hands. 

“I’ve been riding my bike or walking through the park, because my knees no longer permit me to jog. It is my favorite way to take in the outdoors. I start by bicycling from my home in Treme using the Lafitte Greenway and enter City Park along North Alexander Street at the entrance across from Ralph’s on The Park. The quiet ride allows me time to observe nature and all the creatures God has put on this earth for humans to interact with and enjoy.”

Like his family, Edgar appreciates the opportunity to push the boundaries. His mother, Leah Chase, is known for expanding the family restaurant’s offerings from a sandwich shop to include several Creole dishes which would become iconic menu items that are renowned to this day.  In the 1960’s Dooky Chase restaurant became more than a Treme landmark by contributing to the civil rights movement and offering a safe haven for organizers.  

Within City Park’s footprint, there are many ways one could push the boundaries. The 1,300 acres are as magical and unique as that red carpet, art-clad spot on Orleans Ave. The outdoor oasis, historic oaks, and numerous pathways allow you to get lost in the feeling of nostalgia. 

“My favorite places are always the lesser traveled paths. I cherish the opportunity to discover places I had not observed before and City Park has so many.”

Couturie Forest is the perfect place to escape and discover something new. It is a nature-lover’s haven filled with native trees, scenic waterways, and fascinating wildlife. The forest is a great place to wander with your family and take-in the park’s rich, natural landscape and ease the anxieties of today’s reality.   

“I do not recall when, but once I traveled far into the forest to do volunteer work planting trees and plants with my granddaughters. They needed a few volunteer hours to graduate from high school and they brought me along. I always thought that if I had more time, I would go back to that spot in the forest and spend some peaceful moments watching for birds and insects.” 

The Chase family is a staple in this city. They are a tight knit group who have supported each other through generations and who have the gift of making others in the community feel a part of their special family.

“I have so many cherished family memories. I can really visualize my upbringing as I venture through the various places here {in City Park}. I remember my family members (some of whom are deceased) on blankets tossed on the grounds near the ponds and bayous that flow through the park. I can see the times we went horseback riding. I can recall the hope we had that if my grandchildren took up tennis that we might have the next Arthur Ashe or Serena Williams to cheer on.”

City Park is a place for New Orleans families and has been since 1849. It is a place that is symbiotic with the way we live our lives here. It is a powerful place that has the ability to heal your troubled mind through nature and restore memories as you take in the beauty.  You can see that power when you witness the families gathered in the early morning light to admire the wildflowers.

“Supporting this powerful place and being a member of Friends of City Park means that I am a part of something bigger than myself. I am a part of a community that values the beauty of the natural environment, where families can interact in the hardest of times. It is a beautiful sight to behold.”