East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel is asking her colleagues on the council to appoint her to the board that oversees the parish’s parks and recreation system, a move that could shake up the conversation about moving the Baton Rouge Zoo out of her district.
Banks-Daniel has promised in the past to fight against a potential relocation of the zoo, which eventually would have to be approved by the BREC Board of Commissioners. Consultants are still scouting potential sites and renovation options for the zoo and plan to present their final findings to BREC commissioners in February.
The Metro Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on making appointments to the nine-member BREC board, which has two members finishing their terms.
The Metro Council appoints six members to the board. Three other appointees come from the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, the mayor-president and the Planning Commission.
Kenneth Riche, the board’s chairman, who holds one of the terms that is expiring, has asked to be reappointed.
The other seat had been filled by East Feliciana Parish Superintendent of Schools Carlos Sam, who has not at this point requested another term.
Banks-Daniel and the Rev. Shelton Dixon, of Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, each have submitted applications for spots on the BREC board.
Banks-Daniel did not return requests for comment.
A decision on whether to move the zoo depends on the financial viability, securing a land donation and winning public support for it.
BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight has promised that if the zoo moves to a new location, BREC also would raise the money to replace it with another exciting option in Baker. She tossed out examples like the popular Liberty Lagoon water park that BREC operates.
Banks-Daniel has said she would support a zoo renovation if the zoo remains in its Baker location but that replacing the zoo with another option in her north Baton Rouge district is “out of the question.”
“The zoo is in the perfect location, and that is why the location was chosen 50 years ago and has operated in its current location for 45 years,” Banks-Daniel said in August.
Banks-Daniel complained about the idea in December on her Facebook page, where she called suggestions to move the zoo “economic discrimination.” She posted photos of an end-of-season pool party where dogs were invited to Liberty Lagoon and said the water park is not a big enough attraction to lure tourists to Baker.
“Moving the Baton Rouge Zoo ... robs (north Baton Rouge) of an opportunity to capitalize on tourism — more people flying in the BTR airport, hotel stays, restaurants, retail sales, jobs,” Banks-Daniel wrote.