Reimagined Greenwood Regional Park and New State of the Art Zoo Questions & Answers
Below, you will find questions asked by members of the audience at the Greenwood and Zoo Community meetings followed by responses provided by BREC.
Click the questions to view the provided answers.
We anticipate approximately 35-40 new full-time positions at the reimagined Greenwood Regional Park because we know that we’ll need more people to do maintenance and to maintain the park. We know that as for as the seasonal positions are concerned, currently Liberty Lagoon hires more teenagers than anybody in the parish; we would likely see somewhere around 100 or more young people hired for that particular feature. Additionally, we will need people to run the carousal and different people to do various types of full-time and part-time jobs. A reimagined zoo at a more sustainable location would generate approximately 260 additional jobs, primarily full-time positions.
Using Burbank Park as an example, we have a serious demand for more ballfields. We have a serious demand over at Liberty Lagoon. If visitors go to Liberty Lagoon, even though we have recently expanded, they will see the entrance line wrapped around the side of the building. Many of the people who visit Liberty Lagoon are people who live in the northern part of the parish. We collect zip codes and we know where people who are visiting live. If visitors go to Perkins Road Extreme Park, a number of people use the rock climbing wall and participate in different types of sports and extreme sports activities. We believe the demand is there. And we believe that we will absolutely be able to meet the demand.
BREC does zip code studies to understand this type of data. The below are among the zip code areas of zoo attendees:
The public will have an opportunity to support or not to support the process. If the commissioners give BREC the permission to look for another, more sustainable location, BREC will still need to come back to the voters at some point. Superintendent McKnight’s goal is to make sure that we knock on every door we can before we ask the public to pay for anything. It is going to be a long process. We know our zoo needs a major investment. We will talk to the private non-profit community, the business community, and to people in other places such as a zip line company, for example, to explore public-private partnership opportunities. We will bring people in from out of the area to help us to make sure we bring these things to bear. All that said, at the end of the day, we know that the public will have to lend some level of financial support to make this vision a reality, but this will be an amount heavily mitigated by as many external funding options as we are able to secure.
The current price tag for a new zoo is $110 million and for a reimagined Greenwood Park is $40 million. We are planning to “knock on doors” and talk to different people, private companies, private individuals, and to philanthropic people. We know that we have to look for ways to fund these two projects, which we are committed to doing. We also have other needs at BREC that we have to figure out how we take care of. People have asked us to build trails throughout the system – connecting trails, for example. Additionally, we are looking for grants and for all different possibilities. We know that at some point we are going to have to ask for capital outlay dollars – when the state budget gets better, if it gets better – we know that we are going to have to try to get something to help just like the Audubon Zoo does. We know that it is going to take a lot of time, effort, a lot of communicating with people, and significant back and forth about what we can do and when we can do it; it’s going to be a lot of work.
We could do both, and we could design both at the same time. We could start on the J. S. Clark Sports Complex as well as some other parts of the park where the animals are not located. Once we build the zoo and put the animals in their new home, then we can begin working on those things that our engineering team has talked about regarding the water park, the amusement area, and the various things that we could bring as far as the things we would like to see such as the carousels, Ferris wheel, and more. These later activities are ones that we would have to do after the animals have been moved.
One of the things we were told when we received the feasibility study report was that the consultants looked at about eight different places. We took a footprint of what a new zoo could have in terms of space needs and it fit at both the Nicholson site and at Airline Park; however, Airline Park was heavily flooded during the August 2016 flooding event, and we know now that it is not an option. The Nicholson Corridor property could be a viable option, but we haven’t selected a location. The Nicholson Corridor property is own by multiple property owners and developers including the Preserve at Harveston developer Mike Wampold.
When one considers that we are looking at the same cost in both locations, but 15 years vs. 5 years for the construction timeframe and more than 500,000 attendees vs. 375,000 – those are the reasons we know we need to move. We are talking about being in a highly visible area. Currently, the zoo is out-of-site and out-of-mind. We want to put the zoo in a highly visible location so the people see it, similar to what we are doing with Knock Knock Children’s Museum, which will be off of Interstate 10 – in an area where visitors can see it, where they are passing it, and where it is near other things that nearby residents go to – from churches to schools, to various attractions. Superintendent McKnight’s recommendation to the BREC Commissioners will be to consider the most sustainable location for the zoo moving forward, which will be the most responsible recommendation. She will not offer something she doesn’t believe will be the most sustainable location such as the current location along Thomas Road or LA 19.
Anyone who has ever tried to renovate their entire house while still living in it will understand the parallel. It is a real challenge, which takes a lot longer, but in those instances homeowners don’t have dangerous animals they are trying to figure out how to reposition because they can’t send them anywhere. Given that, it takes a long time to renovate a zoo. The type of zoo we are talking about today will be totally different from what we currently have in Baton Rouge. We are talking about an amazingly different zoo, an engaging zoo, a zoo where people will come and will be able to engage safely with animals. As an example, the Dallas Zoo has a giraffe feeding area where patrons walk up to the giraffe and feed them by placing lettuce in their mouths, which children can enjoy. We are talking about engaging children in a very interactive way, and all people in a similar way, with everyone able to have unique experiences. For example, the Birds of Prey show, which is a show that is so entertaining and educational. We are talking about all kinds of wonderful amenities that you see at zoos where you walk into the zoo and see a tiger, a leopard, or a jaguar over your head as you walk in. We are talking about an amazing space unlike anything you have seen here in this community.
No. We have enough space, which is not the issue. Out of the 660 acres, the zoo sits on about 147 acres, and of the 147 acres, we use about 70 acres for that location. However, we do not have enough space to redevelop a new reimagined zoo and all of the amenities of a new regional park since much of the land surrounding the zoo at Greenwood park is wetlands.
The Superintendent’s hope is to present a reasonable, professional recommendation to the BREC Commissioners. They will approve it or not approve it. If they approve it, the next step will be to begin looking for land in the most sustainable location. We will talk about the funding to support both locations. We will have to conduct a more scientific survey to make sure we survey the entire parish, because this is a parish-wide facility and the Superintendent would like to hear from the entire parish. We know that we will need to identify where the land will be if we are able to relocate and are given permission to do so. We know there are a number of steps. There will be a number of things we will have to do to move our zoo and Greenwood in the proper direction.
We don’t at this point. Several people called us about different possibilities. Some are not ones that we would pursue because our intention is that we are not paying for land. Our hope is to create an opportunity where we can enter into a long-term lease agreement. This $110 million does not include the cost of purchasing land. We do have property at BREC that we need to sell on our “obsolete land” list. These pieces of property are not providing the kind of recreation value we need. We know we will need to do some different things with our system. We will constantly take a look at what we are doing to make sure we are making good decisions with the taxpayers’ dollars. Land will be one of the things we will have to identify.
Absolutely. I hope that we will have a place for children with autism in our adventure playground to serve children with special needs. We hope to be able to serve veterans who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’ve been asked about passive zones where people would like to go horse-back riding and activities necessary to help relieve the stress and anxiety. We know that we have to provide something for everyone and we intend to do that.
With considering the $40 million investment, the Superintendent will not spend $110 million at a site where it requires $40 million. A commissioner recently mentioned a residential development possibility. If residential property is included, that would be a more significant investment over the $40 million. We also know that if we reposition some of the golf holes at the Dumas golf course, we will need to invest more than $40 million. We will not spend $110 million if we don’t need to spend $110 million. If residents look around at what BREC is doing in the northern part of the parish and what BREC is doing at Howell Park and North Sherwood Forest Park, we are investing in the north part of the parish, and we will continue to do so.
Yes. We have talked to the developer.
BREC’s headquarters on Florida Blvd. is the most centrally located and most neutral location that exists, which sits right in the middle of the parish. That said, this is a public forum and we will have more community meetings.
The zoo would not have to be smaller if it is not moved. The size of the zoo will ultimately depend on the location and funding. Infrastructure needs will not be known until a location is selected. The current location has old infrastructure that would need to be replaced, and almost 95% of what is at the current zoo would need to be demolished and is one of the components that will take significant time to accomplish when compared to moving to a more sustainable location.
Logistically, it will be more difficult and time consuming to undergo such a significant redevelopment where animals are currently located and where operations are ongoing than it would be to start on vacant or undeveloped land.
The $110 million figure is an estimate based on significantly updating the zoo while adding zoo exhibits and features that are currently trending in the industry. A final cost will not be determined until a specific location is identified and a master plan, including design drawings and detailed financial models, are created.
If we are allowed to do so by the Commission, we will look for the best location for a reimagined Zoo. Our hope is not to pay for land – the possibilities include a legacy donation by a land owner or an extremely low-cost long term lease. We will negotiate the best possible land deal so that we can concentrate our spending on building an amazing zoo for the entire parish. While the Nicholson site is included in the study, it has not been determined to be the final location. We will consider other potential locations if allowed by the BREC Commission.
There are no requirements that animal waste and human waste must be separated. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, f a zoo intended to bring in animals directly from Africa, it was required to have a separate waste treatment system because hoof stock being brought here from Africa posed a health threat to local agriculture. Now it is rare for animals to be brought to America from Africa, but when they are, they undergo a 30-day quarantine in places like New York or Miami to make sure they are healthy. The bottom line is that there would be no requirement for our zoo to build a separate waste treatment system if we are allowed to rebuild.
Entry to the park itself would free as with any BREC park, there would be no cost to enter the park itself. Other costs would vary depending on what you would want to do with your family and friends. For example, the entrance fee to the Water Park would be similar to Liberty Lagoon and there would likely be a fee for the Zip Line. There would be the opportunity to rent pavilions and kayaks or canoes at low-cost like how we currently operate Greenwood and other parks throughout the system. We will look for potential company sponsorships to keep costs as low as possible and, of course, there would be a variety of options that are free such as the trails, playgrounds, splash pad and sporting areas.
|Current Location||Current Location at Completion||Most Sustainable Location at Completion|
|Timeline for Completion of Construction||15 years||5 years|
|Annual Operating Budget||$5,500,000||$7,500,000||$12,5000,000+|
|Annual BREC Tax Subsidy||50%||50%||25%|
|Zoo Jobs Supported Annually||96||243||360|
|Annual Economic Impact for EBRP||$17,670,000||$23,900,000||$34,100,000|
The Zoo’s existing location is not ideally suited to take advantage of population shifts and growth expectations, interstate tourist routes, and proximity to potential strategic partners that would advance the Zoo’s mission while creating a powerful synergy that would have exponential impacts on the region’s economic, cultural, and tourism realms. These concerns were voiced to our consultant team who approached potential donors to determine if they would be willing to invest in a reimagined zoo. Most indicated excitement and interest in the project, but want to ensure their dollars are invested in the most sustainable location in order to draw the highest possible number of visitors to the new site.
Greenwood Park’s 660 acres consists of roughly 400 acres of forested areas. Approximately 230 acres of these acres are classified as palustrine wetlands, which are broad-leaved Deciduous Forested Wetlands most common in the South and East and regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Typical species of trees found in these types of wetlands include:
- Red maple
- American elm
- Black gum
- Tupelo gum
- Swamp white oak
- Overcup oak
- Swamp chestnut oak
To develop wetlands, first, a preliminary jurisdictional determination request is submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers. If the presence of jurisdictional wetlands is confirmed, an approved mitigation plan will be prepared to offset losses of wetland acreage. The required mitigation will be determined during the permit application process. Permitting and mitigation process take a great amount of time and money.
In addition to wetlands, the forested areas of Greenwood also contain sensitive habitat and species of plants, trees and animals that are becoming harder to find within the Parish. Because of this, these forested areas are considered as part of BREC’s system-wide conservation area inventory. BREC, as a park and recreation agency, subscribes to an ethic of protecting our environment through green infrastructure, conservation of public land, and providing and protecting wildlife habitat. Today, people are increasingly disconnected to nature. As a park agency, BREC plays an essential role as environmental stewards who advocate for and protect our most precious public resources –land, water, trees, open spaces and wildlife. It is part of our mission to promote sustainable practices, including green infrastructure and other strategies that address threats to our natural open spaces, preserving wildlife, growing a next generation of environmental stewards, and supporting programs and policies that encourage a commitment to conservation. Therefore, any further redevelopment of the Greenwood property will be carefully planned to avoid disturbing the wetlands, wildlife, trees and plants that live and flourish in that habitat. There simply isn’t adequate usable space for both projects on the same site.
The main issue at the zoo is not space. In fact, the Baton Rouge Zoo is one of the largest in the nation. Our biggest challenge is that the zoo is not built in the most sustainable location. By that we mean that it is not near a major thoroughfare with high traffic flow and maximum visibility or located near other tourist attractions where there is synergy that will attract a larger number of visitors. The figures speak for themselves: renovating at the current site would require a subsidy of 50% by taxpayers versus 20% in a more sustainable location. We would not be able to create the economic impact we are talking about at the current location. The reason for the subsidy being lower at a more sustainable location is that it would attract significantly more visitors than a renovated attraction at the current location. Our estimates show that a location on a much more visible, heavily traveled thoroughfare would double the number of visitors it receives now at 500,000 annually compared to an increase to 375,000 at the current location.
Answer: We heard this claim during a radio interview just the other day when someone said they could not find the zoo. We sent the radio host photographs of all 10 federal interstate and state highway signs. As you can imagine, these signs are regulated and strict conditions must be met to qualify for such signs. We currently have reached our limit which includes 2 signs on the interstate highway and 8 signs on state highways. These have been in place for nearly 20 years!
These signs are located at:
1 sign I-110 exit 8A
1 sign exit 8A ramp
State Tourism Signs
2 signs LA 19 (northbound and southbound)
2 signs Plank Road (northbound and southbound)
2 signs Scenic Highway (northbound and southbound)
2 signs Thomas Road (eastbound and westbound)
Advertising Outdoor Billboards
• YTD in 2017, the Zoo has posted 18 billboards throughout the parish (Example locations include: Coursey, Scenic/Hwy 19, Florida, Perkins, I-10, I-12, Greenwell Springs, etc).
• These billboards have anticipated impressions of 3.2 Million YTD.
• Also have signage in the Mall of LA that reaches over 1.2M annually.
The Baton Rouge Zoo had two elephants when the zoo was first built. National standards have since changed and zoos are now required to have a small herd of elephants since research shows they fare better in a more social environment. Our enclosure no longer met those standards so after one of our elephants died of old age, we sent the other one, named Bozie, to the National Zoo where she is now housed in a $56-million enclosure. In fact, her transport made the front page of the Washington Post, a rare feat in a renowned newspaper that covers national and international politics!
The Commission will vote on whether to accept the Friends of the Zoo feasibility study recommendations and allow BREC staff to search for a more sustainable location for the zoo and to repurpose Greenwood Community Park into the first regional park in the BREC system. The vote will take place at the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on August 24.