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City Park Tree Occupier Said To Be Armed With Two 'Incendiary Devices'

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New Orleans City Park

City Park officials believe a man who broke into a construction site and occupied a tree may be armed with at least two “incendiary devices,” and are calling on protesters to end their criminal activity.

The Park says the man vandalized a security fence to enter a restricted construction zone, accompanied by three other masked individuals.

“The discovery of these incendiary devices has caused us and local law enforcement great concern for the safety of our visitors and the park itself,” wrote City Park CEO Bob Becker in an emailed statement. “We will hold each person responsible for any illegal activity and pursue the personal repayment of all costs caused by them.”

Protesters have been decrying the clearing of trees and brush in an area of City Park that once held a golf course, but was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina and floodwaters nearly 10 years ago.

Prior to the storm, the Park had four golf courses. Much of the land previously used as golf courses has been turned over to other uses, including the Big Lake and Festival Grounds recreational areas. This weekend’s Hogs for the Cause event is being held on land once part of the South Golf Course.

The Park is now readying to build a second golf course, the end result of a decade of planning, including several public meetings to review the park’s Master Plan and the golf project.

However, protesters say they have grown to love the wild space that has filled the area in the years since the storm, and feel blindsided and left out of the planning and decision-making process.

“It is time for these criminal activities to end,” says Becker in the press statement. “We call on the City Park for Everyone Coalition to join us in demanding an end to these illegal acts of vandalism. Individuals destroying park property and trespassing on an active construction site are endangering themselves and others using the park.”

The full statement from City Park:

NEW ORLEANS – March 28, 2015 – Following is a statement from City Park Chief Executive Officer Bob Becker regarding an incident of an individual allegedly in possession of at least two incendiary devices while trespassing on an active construction site to occupy a tree: “Earlier today, City Park officials were notified of the latest act of vandalism and trespassing occurring near the construction site of the new golf course. This individual apparently vandalized the security fence around the site with three other individuals that were wearing masks. One individual allegedly possessed at least two incendiary devices while establishing a position in a tree. The discovery of these incendiary devices has caused us and local law enforcement great concern for the safety of our visitors and the park itself. This criminal act comes after numerous incidents of individuals illegally destroying property and harming park grounds during the last two weeks. It is time for these criminal activities to end. We call on the City Park for Everyone Coalition to join us in demanding an end to these illegal acts of vandalism. Individuals destroying park property and trespassing on an active construction site are endangering themselves and others using the park. City Park has taken great effort to allow these individuals to express their opinions, including conducting a face-to-face meeting with leaders of the City Park for Everyone Coalition, Monday, March 23. At that meeting, we asked this group to assist us in calling for an end to vandalism. They refused to help us at that time. We expect them to help now. In the process of resolving a similar situation earlier this week, City Park hired safety and security personnel to monitor the individual involved. City Park and the New Orleans Fire Department provided medical care when he required it after falling out of the tree he occupied. These services cost City Park $1,000 per day. We will hold each person responsible for any illegal activity and pursue the personal repayment of all costs caused by them. We will work with law enforcement to prosecute all individuals who engage in criminal activity. City Park appreciates the continued assistance of the New Orleans Police Department and Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department and New Orleans Fire Department. Golf activity at City Park has been discussed, debated and amended for nearly a decade. The first public hearing on the golf courses was held in 2005 with numerous public hearings thereafter. It has been reviewed by various offices of state government as well as FEMA. It has undergone layers of environmental review and approval and received all permits from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Many meetings were held with neighborhood associations and business organizations throughout the process. In addition, hundreds of people attended public meetings prior to amendments to the Master Plan. City and state officials were kept abreast of progress as well, with extensive environmental and archeological reviews completed according to federal guidelines.” FACTUAL NOTES FOR THE MEDIA: Some recent media reports have quoted factually inaccurate information about City Park and the construction of the golf course. In the interest of accuracy, following is a list of facts that we request be included in any story about golf course construction to avoid confusion and misinformation: 1. The new golf course will be a public golf course, not private. As a public course, it will be open to all individuals interested in playing there, including tens of thousands of young people as part of the First Tee Program, which teaches life skills to young people. Seventy percent of the participants in the First Tee Program are minorities. 2. City Park has planted more than 6,000 trees since Hurricane Katrina. This is three times the number of trees lost in Hurricane Katrina. 3. City Park is removing 110 fairway trees in the construction of the new golf course, 45 of those are invasive species or dead. Others may be termite infested. At least 500 trees will be planted in City Park this year and next. 4. The initial public hearing on the Park's Master Plan was in 2005. Subsequent public hearings were held in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 on the Park's Master Plan, and other public meetings were held on the golf project. In addition, there were various periods for public comment to be submitted in person, by email or written communication. City Park received hundreds of comments from the public during this time and listened to them by reducing the amount of Park land devoted to golf by some 200 acres. 5. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, City Park had four golf courses. Upon completion of the new course, City Park will have two courses. On the former golf areas, the park has created the Big Lake recreational area and the Festival Grounds. On this very day, thousands of citizens are enjoying the Hogs for the Cause fundraiser on the former South Golf Course. 6. Additionally, 96 acres of green space that were formerly part of the East Golf Course at City Park are available for the same public enjoyment as the site of the new golf course. Specifically, there is an area between Harrison Ave. and Zachary Taylor Drive that mirrors the green space, trails and walking paths (former golf cart paths) that will be part of the new golf course. The park's requests of the City Park for Everyone Coalition leadership to work with the park to develop this site for the uses they envision have to date been ignored.

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