Highly manicured geometric designs define French landscapes while delicate, quiet designs define Japanese landscapes, Kinder Baumgardner explained Tuesday. So what would define a Louisiana landscape that could become part of the redesign of the Baton Rouge lakes?

“We haven’t cracked the code yet, but we think it has to do with water and we think it has to do with history,” Baumgardner told an audience during the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit.

The annual event organized by the Center for Planning Excellence is set up each year to bring together planners, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, lawyers, engineers and others to provide a forum to talk about the impact good planning and design can have on a community.

Baumgardner is president of the SWA Group, hired by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to come up with a master plan to address the many problems of the Baton Rouge lakes. The master plan will look to help enhance how the public uses the lakes, whether that’s through improved running and walking paths or better water quality to enhance fishing.

“It’s not just about cleaning up the lakes or making them pretty,” he said.

Instead, the important question is how to use the landscape to make the lakes truly special and accessible for the community to enjoy.

“This could be a world-class destination. It doesn’t have to be just about the neighborhood. It can be both,” he said.

As an example, Baumgardner explained how he was involved in a project in Houston that took a forgotten bayou running through town and turned it into a destination place where people could gather, exercise and even commute to work by bicycle.

Although the Baton Rouge lakes already have many people using them for recreation, bird watching and more, it’s because people want to be around the lakes, not because they were designed to be that way, he said. For example, the narrow roads around the lakes accommodate walkers, runners and vehicle traffic, but it’s not the optimum way these forms of transportation should co-exist.

People also fish in the lakes even though the shallowness of the water means that the number of fish in most of the lakes is minimal.

The process going on now is to develop a master plan for the redevelopment of the lakes that preserves their beauty while making them healthier and more user-friendly. The first in a series of public meetings to gather information on what people would like to see happen with the lakes was held last week. The next meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at the LSU Union Cotillion Ballroom.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.