Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Parry 'Matt' Thomas, right, leads a group, including Greg Ducote, left, that helps clean up the lakes around City Park and LSU.

For the past three years a small group of volunteers has worked weekly to clear vegetation and trash from the lakes at City Park and LSU in Baton Rouge.

Some of the lake system is maintained by BREC, the parish park system, while the city-parish’s Department of Public Works cares for others, said Parry “Matt” Thomas, one of the leaders of the lake volunteers.

“A lot of it is not really maintained except by some of the homeowners,” Thomas said.

Thomas and the handful of workers who show up once or twice a week to work the lakes call themselves TULIPA, The University Lakes Improvement and Preservation Association. So far they have survived on donations of tools and funds from area homeowners.

Now Thomas and TULIPA are in the running for a $10,000 grant from Cox Enterprises and the Trust for Public Land’s Cox Conserves Heroes Program.

Anyone can log on to the Cox Conserves Heroes website and vote for Thomas or one of the other two selections from south Louisiana, both from New Orleans area organizations.

The $10,000 will go a long way with TULIPA, Thomas said.

“That basically will supply us with any tools we need, supplies, gas, oil,” he said.

Plus, Thomas plans to build more trash can holders around the lakes. They’ve built six so far but see a need for more.

“We keep them maintained and put bags in them,” he said. “We could possibly build some more of those.”

Thomas, a retired nuclear sales engineer, welcomes any volunteer groups that may want to work with TULIPA. Local sororities and groups such as Forum 35 have helped in the past. Even a University of Florida alumni organization has pitched in. To learn more, visit TULIPA online at

To vote for Thomas or one of the other Cox Conserves Heroes, visit