The public gets a chance Thursday night to be the designers of their own backyard when the Baton Rouge Area Foundation hosts the second public meeting on the Baton Rouge lakes master plan.
The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the LSU Union Cotillion Ballroom.
Participants will separate into groups and work on where they would put the walking paths, public spaces, educational displays or whatever they see as a future possibility for the lakes’ development, said Mukul Verma, director of communications for the foundation.
The public also will be able to share with planners how they’d like to see dredge material, expected to be taken from the bottom of the lakes, used in the area’s development, he said.
The online forum at TheLakes.Mindmixer.com has received a number of suggestions including the desire for walking and biking trails, wetland areas, bird viewing areas and even connecting two of the lakes near May Street to allow use of a longer lake for rowing events, Verma said.
Other ideas include more water fountains for runners and walkers, boat and bike rentals, fishing areas, a boathouse and finding ways to reduce noise and pollution from the interstate.
The meeting is part of an effort organized by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to come up with a master plan to improve the health and public enjoyment of the lakes.
The six lakes that lay between City Park and LSU were created in the 1930s out of cypress swamp. Since then, the lakes have gradually filled in with sediment and pollutants. They have became too shallow to be considered healthy for fishing or swimming.
Although there was an attempt to dredge the lakes to make them deeper in the 1980s, the cypress stumps left in the lakes after the logging made it impossible. The work was limited to cutting a channel through the middle of the largest lake, which didn’t do much to make the lakes healthier.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then worked on designing a plan for the lakes, but ran into a lack of funding for the project, and the work was discontinued in 2008, but not until at least a draft plan was produced.
Using that draft plan as a basis, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation announced earlier this year its intention to hire planners to develop a new strategy for the lakes including the investigation of options of how to pay for construction. As a part of that master plan development process, the foundation has set up a website at www.batonrougelakes.org to collect public comment. The foundation also is holding a series of meetings to gather more input.
At the last meeting in November, more than 150 people showed up at the first lakes master plan meeting to discuss how people used the lakes, what should be improved and even ideas that didn’t prove very popular, such as having a cafe or restaurant included in the plans. This time, participants will get the chance to put those ideas to paper and design the lakes’ future.
The next meetings will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business School Auditorium on Jan. 29 to hear about overall designs from the planners and on April 30 for the presentation of the draft plan.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.