One of New Orleans’ hidden gems is Crescent Park, a 1.4-mile, 20-acre sliver by the river. Given that we live beside one of the greatest rivers in the world, it is shame there are so few places on the East Bank to see it, but Crescent Park, which opened in 2014, was designed to forge connection between residents and the Mississippi with its industrial and maritime vibe.
The ingeniously landscaped park, designed by local architect Eskew Dumez Ripple and internationally renowned landscape architect George Hargreaves and Michael Maltzan, spans Marigny and Bywater, featuring biking/jogging paths, dog park, gardens and picnic area. Adaptive use of two industrial wharves at Piety and Mandeville Streets created a covered pavilion and open stage extending over the water for live entertainment. Nine years of construction and $30 million Community Development Block Grant from Katrina recovery funds went into making this stretch of waterfront a stress reduction wonderland open 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily.
Crescent Park is actually part of the French Market District. You can take the Riverfront Street Car, exit #10, or walk right through the traditional marketplace, past Elysian Fields Avenue and get into the park via a steep metal staircase or elevator, then traversing (Mandeville Crossing) bridge over the railway tracks. From that lofty height, enjoy a magnificent view of the river’s bend, Mississippi River Bridge and French Quarter. Below, a pedestrian path flanks the river, dotted with benches and breathtaking overlooks.
Indigenous plants include seasonal flowers, native grasses, azaleas, Sago and Pygmy Dwarf palms and gem Magnolias. Traces of railroad spurs that once peeled off the main railroad line remain, leaving curving ballast and iron spokes that create alternate pathways. Everything’s not in bloom yet, but soon will be. At different times, hip-hop and Zumba afternoon exercise classes and the occasional farmers’ market have been held here, although those may be pushed off a while longer.
At Piety Street Wharf, the “Rusty Rainbow” staircase permits access from a dedicated parking lot and North Peters Street. Not everyone is ready for the aerobic climb up and over, but the ascent affords a lovely view of 1,200 feet of riverfront gardens and picnic area.
Continue along the path to appreciate an impressive bronze and marble monument, honoring the many Latin American workers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Often, on this grassy stretch, you might find guitar players strumming or people reading or lounging in hammocks strung between two trees. Last, but certainly not least, a fenced exercise yard permits canines of every size and distinction to fetch, burrow, socialize and sniff to their hearts’ delight. Free waste bags and dog-friendly water fountain make Crescent Park a prime dog owners’ destination.
At Bartholomew Street, a third entryway and parking lot offers ample room for cars.
Elizabeth’s Restaurant, near the Piety Street entrance, has reopened and placed picnic tables outside for breakfasting to make your trip fully satisfying.