Meet the man behind plans to revamp Fort Macomb

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A follow-up now, to our report on crumbling history in the city of New Orleans, a local man pursues a plan to revamp Fort Macomb, which is one of the most historic sites in the region, but restoration costs remain a huge hurdle.

Along Chef Menteur Highway near Venetian Isles sits Fort Macomb. Built on Chef Pass in 1820 to guard entry to New Orleans from foreign invaders.

“The United States realized the best way to provide defense was to build fortifications that in the time of peace could be manned by caretakers,” said historian Marty Morgan.

It was one of the first in the nation under the third tier system of forts built in 1820, shortly after the British invasion of New Orleans, and is now sinking, surrounded by water, and closed to the public.

“Something needs to be done now, and your special was right on time. It’s deteriorating,” said Morgan.

Ronnie Lahoste, a New Orleanian with a vision for a fort on the national register of historic places.

“At this time I would bring an expert on how to stop the bleeding and see what needs to be prepared and shored up so people can go inside and get the history of what this fort is all about,” said Lahoste.

Lahoste would like to see Fort Macomb opened to the public, and used for field trips, picnics, and fishing rodeos, as they appreciate the history.

While such activities could help sustain the fort, restoration costs for Fort Macomb, and nearby Fort Pike, are another story.

“In order to do the whole restoration project, that would be $50 million just for Fort Pike,” said Brandon Burris with the La. Office of State Parks.

While Lahoste believes shoring up this 200-year-old fort is a tough job. He is making it clear he wants it to be a place where hundreds could come out and enjoy, as they appreciate the history.

“Glamping, they’re doing that on the state park now and it’s profitable,” he said.

Meantime the forts continue to deteriorate and requests for federal and state help go unanswered. The current state budget is well short of the $50 million estimated cost of restoring just one fort.

“My total budget right now is about $40 million a year to run 21 state parks,” said Burris.

But citizens say something should be done.

“There are so many things you can do out there, it’s a beautiful place,” said Lahoste.

The state says it will continue to talk with Lahoste, and anyone else interested in restoring these valuable sites, before it’s too late.

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser says he’s been in discussions with regional officials, about building a berm or levee to protect the New Orleans east forts. But experts say with the heavy weight of brick walls, which are 6 feet thick, subsidence continues to be a major issue.

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