Nearly 10 months after August's historic floods put BREC'S Howell Community Park under eight feet of water, the park in north Baton Rouge is reopening to the public this weekend.
BREC spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet said the park's pavilions will be available for rental and the swimming pool, ballfields, playground, sand volleyball court, tennis court and picnic areas will be open for use.
BREC worked with FEMA to obtain temporary buildings to be used as restroom, shower and changing areas for swimmers and to host summer camp which will begin on Monday, Michelet said in a news release.
Howell was the most damaged park in BREC’s system and required replacement or professional industry standard pressure washing and sanitizing of all play surfaces, sitting areas, pavilions and restrooms, Michelet said.
Nine of the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks Commission's recreation centers are still close…
She said contractors cleaned and repaired the swimming pool, replacing damaged pumps and electrical parts.
In addition, Michelet said, the electrical system that powers the park had to be replace. She said BREC's operations staff will continue providing finishing touches such as paint in some areas as they finish repairs and respond to recent vandalism in the park.
“I am excited to offer this safe, healthy space back to the community which suffered so much damage from the flood,” BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said in the news release announcing the park's opening this weekend.
McKnight said BREC is continuing construction work that was launched shortly after the flood to expand enhance Howell Community Park by adding a large adventure playground, lighted ballfields, a fishing pond, extensive walking trails, a First Tee area for golf instruction and other new features.
"We will invite the public to a huge grand opening event when the construction is complete later this summer,” McKnight said.
Michelet said the gym and recreation center at the park will remain closed for now as BREC continues to work with FEMA to develop a plan to potentially rebuild or repair those heavily damaged buildings.
BREC was able to reopen nearly all outdoor spaces shortly after the flood. The only one that remains closed is Sandy Creek Community Park where an access bridge must be rebuilt, Michelet said.
BREC buildings under construction or consideration for repair by FEMA are: Lovett Road Park, Church Street Park, Sharp Road Park, Hamilton Avenue Park, Flannery Road Park, Maplewood Park, Frenchtown Road Conservation Area and Forest Community Park, which already was under construction for renovations.