On any given evening, visitors to the Baton Rouge Lakes would be hard put not to find people walking, running, biking or just enjoying the view.
“The lakes are one of the greatest assets the community has,” said John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
As part of a planning process to make the lakes an even more inviting and safe place for the community, BRAF on Thursday launched a new website where people can share thoughts about some of the improvements they’d like to see.
The website poses three questions, asking people to list their favorite activities at the lakes, any features of parks elsewhere they’d like considered in the plans for the lakes and their favorite spot around the lakes. This is the early stage of what will be a concerted effort to gather public input on how the six lakes should be renovated, Spain said.
Construction of the lakes from former swampland began in the 1920s, according to a 2008 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. Over the years, that swamp has been threatening to return as soil and pollution have flowed into the lakes. In some places, the lakes are only a few feet deep, making the water hotter in the summer months. This warmer water holds less oxygen, which has led to fish kills. The shallower depth also limits some activities, such as boating.
The Corps completed the 2008 study, but funding for improvements ended before any work could be done. Using that 2008 study as a baseline, BRAF has taken on the task of hiring consultants and engineers to resurrect the effort. The foundation’s approach will be more ambitious, including not only a Corps recommendation to dredge the lakes to a deeper depth but to use the dredge spoils to build new amenities in the park.
Whether that will mean sidewalks, bike lanes, an expansion of the bird sanctuary or other items will be determined through discussions with the public and lake owners, including LSU and BREC, Spain said.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.