Since 2015, BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight has followed the lead of a private foundation to encourage BREC Commissioners to approve the relocation of the zoo from Hwy 19 in north Baton Rouge to an undisclosed location within the parish. The relocation proposal has been met with resistance from each mayor surrounding the zoo: Junior Shelton of Central, David Amrhein of Zachary, Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, and Darnell Waitts of Baker. They said the current location has had posi- tive impact on their cities and renovations or remodeling the zoo would increase the impact greatly. Each of these mayors joined Broome in the creation of a resolution in support of keeping the zoo in its current location.
City council leaders and organizations including North Baton Rouge Now Blue Ribbon Commission and Keep the Baton Rouge Zoo at Greenwood Park have pushed for BREC and commissioners to consider renovations instead of relocation. Following multiple public meetings, community forums, and social media commentaries, East Baton Rouge parish residents still have significant questions for BREC Commissioners who will ultimately determine if the city’s zoo should be relocated. Residents and community leaders were asked to share questions they have for commissioners about the zoo. They were also asked to give questions they believe commissioners should ask BREC officials, the private foundation, and McKnight. The questions were combined into the following sets of nine.
9 QUESTIONS FOR THE BREC COMMISSIONERS:
1 Who really is the keeper of the zoo? BREC Superinten- dent? BREC Commissioners?
2 What research have the BREC Commissioners indi- vidually completed to validate what has been proposed to them by the BREC executives? What are their thoughts on the ndings? Why do they seem to be “mum” on if the proposal is
valid? Why do we have a 180- park system for a city of this size? Could the reduction of our park system be a part of the funding and operation strategy?
3 How could interviewees in uence a decision to relocate the Baton Rouge Zoo which was created and paid for by the city’s total population?
4 Why have Commissioners not discussed the validity of the Baker Recreation Hub Report? Aren’t there are many similarities between their report and BREC’s Reimagine Greenwood Park’s proposal?
5 What will be the public’s contributions in the develop- ment and operation of the zoo if it is moved?
6 Why is it feasible to use public funds for what appears to be a privately-initiated project?
7 Are Commissioners ig- noring the concerns of four mayors who have indicated their desire to have the zoo remain in its current location?
8 Under what speci c con- ditions are commissioners will- ing to consider in order for the zoo remain in it’s current location?
9 What will be the public’s contributions in the develop- ment and operation of the zoo if it is moved?
9 QUESTIONS BREC COMMISSIONERS SHOULD ASK TO SUPERINTENDENT :
1 Why is BREC seeking new land for the relocation of the zoo when the current lo- cation sits on more than 660 acres of land located in one of the highest elevations of the parish?
2 Who are the philanthro- pists that are stating that they are willing to invest in the zoo if the zoo is moved? How much support are these philanthro- pists committed to investing into this zoo with or without relocating?
3 Who was actually sur- veyed and polled? What ef- forts were made to reach and get input from everyone? Why is there a lack of ethnic and economic diversity of the interviewees from the S&W study?
4 Why was the only op- tion presented by BREC to the public the Reimagine Greenwood and the relocation of the zoo?
5 How will interviewees of the private-survey directly or indirectly bene t from the relocation that they are so ada- mantly in favor of?
6 Why was BREC represen- tatives absent at public meetings that were held by others from the community?
7 Should demand that the superintendent provide information about potential reloca- tion sites and detail the selection criteria for those sites.
8 What’s the potential impact and costs to the community that may become the home of the Baton Rouge Zoo i.e. increased tra c congestion, noise pollution, environmental hazards such as water runo , sewage treatment, etc.? What are the costs for road and traffic infrastructure for relocating the zoo?
9 Why would it take 15 years to develop the zoo in its current location? Could animal and attractions be developed si- multaneously, thus stimulating public interest and increased foot traffic?
By Cora Lester