News From Vision to Reality: BREC to Unveil Impactful Initiatives in 2024
Baton Rouge, LouisianaIn the upcoming year, BREC is gearing up for a transformative 2024, marked by the completion of significant projects, pursuit of national accreditation, and the unveiling of strategic plans to shape the future of parks and recreation in East Baton Rouge Parish.
As several large-scale transformational projects near an end, the agency looks forward to celebrating milestones, regaining national accreditation, and engaging with the community to continue the progress that brought a national Gold Medal to East Baton Rouge for the third time in BREC’s history.
- Landmark Construction Project Completion:
- In the spring, BREC will unveil the completed first phase of the Baton Rouge Zoo and Greenwood Community Park reimagination – the largest single construction project in its history.
- Notable features include six new exhibits and 14 renovated exhibits. These include: a giraffe feeding station, an underwater pygmy hippo exhibit, a new train route, a new entryway and entry building, a state-of-the-art adventure playground in Greenwood Community Park as well as enhancements to the J.S. Clark Golf Course.
- We anticipate Celebration of the national accreditation of the Baton Rouge Zoo in March.
- Imagine Your Parks 2 Finale:
- Various completed projects will mark a strong finish to the Imagine Your Parks 2 plan, reflecting BREC's commitment to community-driven enhancements that include a new, modern recreation center and swimming pool at Howell Community Park, a new nature station at Frenchtown Road Conservation Area and the first phase of the University Lakes Project.
- Simultaneously, BREC staff is collaborating with the community on the Imagine Your Parks 3 systemwide master plan, set to guide the next decade of progress. It will be completed this summer with a focus on equity and sustainability and be driven by data gathered from public meetings, surveys and analysis of the park system to determine service gaps, demographics, trends and community needs.
- Audits and Financial Planning:
- BREC’s leadership and Finance team are diligently working with external auditors from EisnerAmper (formerly Postlethwaite and Netterville) to complete delayed annual audits.
- Challenges stemming from the pandemic, a new Finance and HR software implementation, staffing shortages, and the unfortunate passing of BREC’s CFO are being navigated with resilience.
- Auditors anticipate completing the 2021 audit in February, the 2022 audit during the summer, and the 2023 audit the end of this year.
- Voter Engagement for Funding Renewals:
- BREC anticipates participating in the November 2024 election where we will seek approval to renew taxes to support funding the park system’s operations and maintenance, as well as its capital construction funding.
Reflecting on BREC’s journey, Superintendent Corey K. Wilson emphasizes the importance of community collaboration. “The BREC system has grown significantly since the inception of the Imagine Your Parks plan in 2004. These plans have been successful, as they were created and implemented through a commitment to community engagement and seeking public input before embarking on park improvement plans. That commitment has only deepened as BREC’s newly created Community Engagement Policy and Partnership and Development division focus on strengthening existing community relationships and partnerships and building new ones to help BREC better serve more people, and to strengthen our collaboration with the East Baton Rouge Parish community; individuals our parks are built to serve. Our goal is to not only ensure that park users have a stronger voice in park improvements and programming but also have a mechanism where users can take ownership of their parks because no one knows the needs of those local neighborhoods more than their residents and park users.”
Adapting to Changing Needs: “As BREC continues to serve more people, more than 1.6 million in 2023 in staffed facilities, events, and programs alone, not counting passive park users, we will continue to focus on both operations and improvements that will best meet the highest needs of local communities across the parish. The implementation of new technology, the addition of a CFO, and completion of external audits are all part of an effort to improve our financial reporting and transparency to give the public more confidence in BREC continuing to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars,” Wilson said.
Economic Impact Analysis: BREC also plans to reveal the results of a three-year analysis by Trust for Public Land in early 2024 which showcases the park system’s economic impact on East Baton Rouge Parish through increased property values, natural stormwater management, and other categories.