On ground that once was an overgrown lot in a neighborhood off Sorrel Avenue, volunteers will build a small park that organizers hope will serve as a model of how abandoned properties around the city-parish can be managed.
Baton Rouge Green, with funding from ExxonMobil, is putting together “SUCCESSional Park” at 2762 Sorrel Ave. Work on the ground level of the park, a layer of crushed recycled concrete, is being placed this week, and on Saturday, volunteers will help plant native vegetation in the 50-by-130-foot lot.
“This is a concept we came up with a long time ago,” said Robert Seeman, program director with Baton Rouge Green. “We just didn’t have any money to do it.”
As part of a beneficial environmental project of a 2014 settlement between ExxonMobil and the state Department of Environmental Quality, the money became available to test the concept.
In essence, the project will make a vacant lot into a place that will be low maintenance, will discourage trash dumping and will be a benefit to the neighborhood until another development for the property is planned.
“It’s a place holder. But it’s a very nice-looking place holder,” Seeman said.
Without any hard infrastructure, such as playground equipment or large trees, on the property, it wouldn’t take much to change the property if development was proposed.
Instead, small trees, shrubs and flowering plants will be planted in areas around the lot to create a parklike space.
“It’s meant to combat urban blight with the space we have,” he said.
ExxonMobil purchased the adjudicated property earlier this year as part of the company’s greenbelt program and will take on responsibility for maintenance after the park is complete, said Stephanie Cargile, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge spokeswoman. The greenbelt program focuses first on buying abandoned properties around ExxonMobil facilities and then offers to purchase property from homeowners interested in selling, she said.
Working with Baton Rouge Green to turn the property into a park setting improves community involvement and enhances the neighborhood.
The ability to use the property for a park will help Baton Rouge Green refine the concept and find out if the plant regime selected will work as expected. The organization also will see if it is successful in being low maintenance and relatively trash free.
This first project will cost about $20,000, but Seeman said there could be cost savings. In addition, the gravel base means there’s no need for the use of large equipment to maintain the area, saving money as well as the added value of a green space for the community.
The hope is to use the experience to put together a template that can be used in other areas of the city experiencing problems or additional expense because of vacant or abandoned lots.
Baton Rouge Green invited anyone interested in volunteering to plant the new park to arrive at 9 a.m. Saturday at 2762 Sorrel Ave. Volunteers are asked to bring their own work gloves. For more information, call (225) 381-0037.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.