Facility showcases lake and embraces history

BAKER — A $6.5 million improvement project at BREC’s Greenwood Community Park gives visitors a chance to learn a little local history while enjoying a wide variety of recreational activities.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission will reopen the park with a program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday that spotlights each of the facility’s new attractions, including those around the property’s 18-acre lake.

“We’re trying to showcase each of the attractions and features of the park,” BREC Outdoor Recreation Manager Jeff Beck said of Saturday’s celebration.

Two bands, a World War II history presentation, and musical and theatrical performances are planned, Beck said.

The centerpiece of the lake is The Waterfront building, which includes:

• The new clubhouse and pro shop for the Woody Dumas Memorial Golf Course that includes a café with an outdoor seating area overlooking the lake.

• A canoe, paddle boat and kayak rental area. Visitors also may bring their own canoes or kayaks.

• A theater with pull-out theater seating. The area also can be used as a meeting room and is available for rental.

• Two dressing rooms.

• A storage area for golf carts.

The park, which is just off La. 19 south of Lavey Lane, is part of a larger complex that includes BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo, J.S. Clark Golf Course and Dumas Golf Course. BREC’s Cohn Arboretum is nearby at Comite Drive and Foster Road.

Greenwood’s conversion to public use began during World War II when the federal government built an ammunition depot on the site to store bombs and ammunition used in aircraft. Pilots trained at the nearby Harding Army Air Field, now Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

A few of the original ammunition storage buildings remain in the area, including one directly in front of The Waterfront building’s entrance.

The park’s history as a military installation is explained on signs that company volunteers installed on the ExxonMobil Cypress Bayou Trail around the lake.

One of the signs introduces visitors to the “Caterpillar Club,” an elite group of aviators who bailed out of damaged aircraft and lived to tell about it.

The silk caterpillar produced the thread for the fabric from which parachutes of that era were made.

The military aviation theme also is reflected in the Flying Fortress Pavilion, which will be available for rent, and the USO Amphitheater. The pavilion and the amphitheater face the lake.

Fishing piers, a playground and a water playground, or “sprayground,” also border the lake.

Beck said the lake will be stocked with rainbow trout in December.

Elsewhere in the park, visitors may enjoy the tennis courts, Raising Cane’s Dog Park, a disc golf course and picnic areas.

Greenwood is one of the 12 BREC community parks outlined in the Imagine Your Parks initiative East Baton Rouge Parish voters approved in November 2004.