The New Orleans City Council recently passed legislation designed to help make Mardi Gras parades safer and more environmentally friendly for the 2020 season. These two ordinances are the result of a year of internal review with infrastructure, permitting, and public safety stakeholders in the Cantrell administration, as well as engagement with krewes and other community leaders.
“This Mardi Gras ordinance is a huge win for our residents and a shining example of how our government should work in this city. My office worked collaboratively with multiple City agencies including our public safety officials, those who protect our infrastructure and those on the operational side,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “We consistently communicated with the City Council and the Carnival krewe representatives, with everyone sharing concerns and solutions to create this final product. This shows how we can all work together to enjoy our Carnival season safely, sustainably, and joyfully.”
“These improvements to the Mardi Gras ordinance were made to ensure that the festivities are safe and enjoyable for everyone. Our office was grateful for widespread collaboration across many City departments. Sewerage & Water Board, Homeland Security, Sanitation, EMS, and others worked with the Mayor’s Office and Council staff to make sure that Carnival is safe on all fronts,” said Jay H. Banks, District B City Councilmember. “They addressed items that would affect the City’s drainage, security around parade routes, and even personal safety to reduce the possibility that someone might slip on plastics or get hit in the head by a bag of beads. Creating a safe environment for citizens makes it easier for everyone to have a great time at the parades.”
Key in the new legislation is the prohibition of krewe members throwing boxes, non-biodegradable paper streamers, and empty, single-use plastic bags for bulk items from floats. To the extent possible, the City hopes to limit these items from clogging catch basins, blighting trees, and going into the landfill. Many krewes have already instituted these practices and are encouraging a greener Mardi Gras. Volunteer groups, including Grounds Krewe and YLC Recycles, will also be collecting recyclables along the route during select parades this year, and the Department of Public Works will install “gutter buddies” — barriers that block solid objects from entering drains — along each parade route.
“In 2019, 1,080 tons of Mardi Gras trash were transported to the landfill,” said Department of Sanitation Director Cynthia Sylvain-Lear. “By prohibiting these throws, we’re taking a necessary step closer to a greener Mardi Gras.”
Personal Items on Neutral Grounds and Sidewalks
New regulations also outline the placement of personal items, including ladders, canopy tents, and grills on neutral grounds and sidewalks. Those items must not be placed earlier than four hours before the start of a parade and must not block intersections. Ladders need to be at least six feet from the curb and cannot be fastened together. Enclosed tents are not allowed at all. Any items left on the public right-of-way after the final parade of the day will be subject to removal by the Department of Parks and Parkways and the Department of Sanitation.
“With these changes we’re asking residents and visitors to be courteous to fellow parade goers and to our city’s parkways,” said Department of Parks and Parkways Director Ann E. MacDonald. “Four hours is ample time to set up to enjoy a parade.”
Large enclosed vehicles will also be prohibited from parking on public streets within two blocks of a route four hours before and after each parade. That includes box trucks, cargo vans, trucks with port-a-lets, campers, recreation vehicles, and trailers.
“Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, we’ve seen attacks involving vehicles targeting special events,” said New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold. “It only makes sense to take simple steps to mitigate that risk here in New Orleans to ensure a safe and celebratory Mardi Gras for all.”
Five days of the 2020 Carnival season have been given level-two status in the Special Events Assessment Rating (SEAR) program administered by the federal Department of Homeland Security. While the SEAR level does not indicate any specific threat against Mardi Gras, it does indicate the magnitude of the special event and will dedicate additional federal public safety resources to assist. With over 20,000 special events submitted each year, only 17 to 19 of those are generally given level one or two status. This year, New Orleans will host two SEAR two events: the National Football Championship and Mardi Gras.
Additional changes in the two ordinances passed last week include limitations to the number of permitted walking parades on Mardi Gras day; limitations to the number of elements before the first float and between floats; clarification on the erection of stands and structures; and the prohibition of the fencing of public property.
This information is available on the City’s Mardi Gras website, along with parade routes, safety tips, transportation impacts, and permitting information. Visit nola.gov/mardi-gras.