Sign on Thomas Road marks the entrance to BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, seen Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.

Members of the public itching to weigh in on the parish's parks and recreation system's redesign of the Baton Rouge Zoo and Greenwood Community Park will get their first opportunity later this month in two open-house meetings with the project's consulting teams.

The "show and tell"-style meetings will give the public an opportunity to see what ideas master planners have in mind for the zoo and adjoining park, and to give their own feedback on the improvements and additions they'd like to see implemented as both projects enter a multi-phased, multi-year redesign process. 

"Public input will be hugely influential on the park since it's more of an open canvass," said James Taylor, a planner with Franklin Associates, a consulting firm hired by BREC.

He noted that zoos are regulated by national organizations and "must follow all types of rules," adding that the open house meetings are partly about informing the public on the zoo planning process.

Both open house meetings are scheduled for Jan. 29 — the first from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Baton Rouge Garden Club at Independence Park Botanical Gardens and the second from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Waterfront Theater at Greenwood Park. 

The redevelopment of the Baton Rouge Zoo is essential to it regaining accreditation status from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which dinged the facility for its antiquated infrastructure, attractions and animal attractions.

Outgoing BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight pursued possibly relocating the zoo, but that idea got shot down by the board that oversees the parks department after it drew vehement backlash from the public.  

BREC has hired New Orleans-based architecture and master planning firm Torré Design Consortium to draft the plans that will inform future engineering concepts for the zoo. 

Zoo officials have previously said updates to the facility will involve themed exhibits where animal will commingle instead of being displayed individually as they are now, and include more seating areas, a community event space and amenities centered around animal education for the public.

Sasaki Associates was contracted by BREC to handle the master plans for Greenwood Park, which adjoins the zoo. Preliminary discussions about improving the park include adding an amphitheater, multi-use pads, a large-scale adventure playground for kids and a natural habitat for exploration. 

"While two separate design firms all handling each project, they've agreed to work together," Taylor said. "We want the end results to be a holistic design solution for the two."

BREC officials said previously the master plans are needed to begin the fundraising efforts for the projects. 

An online webpage will soon be accessible to the public through BREC's website, Taylor said, and will include online engagement exercises and a comment form where the public can offer feedback and suggestions for the projects. 

A second round of public meetings will occur in early summer where actual design plans will be revealed, officials said, and a third round of meetings could happen in the fall.  



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