Santa Maria homeowners unleashed a final hour effort Wednesday to galvanize opposition to moving the Baton Rouge Zoo, as Baton Rouge recreation and parks officials also sought to counter the intense criticism for their plans ahead of the vote this Thursday on the relocation.
Highlands at Santa Maria resident Joel Tubré created a website Wednesday called "Save Santa Maria" that lists reasons to oppose the zoo move. BREC wants to relocate the zoo from Greenwood Park in north Baton Rouge to the Airline Highway Park in southeast Baton Rouge near the Santa Maria subdivision.
But Tubré said the vast majority of his neighbors oppose the move. A recent closed-door meeting between BREC and Santa Maria homeowners on the issue of relocating the zoo grew heated.
As BREC prepares to vote Thursday on moving the Baton Rouge Zoo, the mayors of Baton Rouge, Central, Baker and Zachary complained that the par…
“BREC is trying to force a square peg into a round hole," Tubré said Wednesday. "There’s so many things wrong with this move. They’re just dead set on making this happen. It doesn’t matter how many red flags or things there are wrong with this move, they’re just going to force it to happen.”
His website features a pro/con list for moving the zoo, with the only pro being that the relocation would lead to more impulse zoo attendance. The website lists cons as flooding risks, the $150 million price tag for the project, traffic congestion, "repugnant smells" and more.
BREC released its own response Wednesday to complaints from the four mayors from Baton Rouge, Baker, Central and Zachary about moving the zoo.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Baker Mayor Darnell Waites, Central Mayor Jr. Shelton and Zachary Mayor David Amrhein each laid out reasons Tuesday for why they think the zoo should remain where it is during a news conference and tour of the Greenwood Park.
The head of the East Baton Rouge Parish parks system says she’s tired of being pilloried by those opposed to moving the city’s zoo, although s…
The mayors stressed that Airline Highway Park flooded in 2016, that the park was previously home to a 17.5 acre landfill in the 1970s and that it made no sense for Baton Rouge taxpayers to foot the bill for a zoo that would be most convenient for Ascension Parish residents. Each said they would rather see the zoo improved in north Baton Rouge, and more amenities added to Greenwood.
BREC spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet responded Wednesday that BREC's engineering consultants had found ways to make the Airline site more flood proof, that the dump site is now in compliance with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and that revenues from zoo visitors outside of the parish would help support the zoo's operating costs.
Michelet wrote that the plan presented on Tuesday by opponents of moving the zoo "would require BREC to purchase three additional pieces of property, demolish an abandoned prison and mitigate wetlands."
She continued, "That cost did not appear to be calculated in the proposed price of the potential project and none of the presenters at the news conference mentioned any attempts at securing outside funding."
BREC also has not released detailed plans for how the agency would fund its $150 million zoo relocation and Greenwood Park expansion proposition. They have repeatedly said they would try to privately raise as much money as possible before they would consider asking for a tax.
Baton Rouge’s park officials expect to prevent future floods at their hoped-for Baton Rouge Zoo site on Airline Highway by turning the lowest-…
Metro Council members, who appoint six of the nine BREC commissioners who will decide on the relocation, also expressed frustration Wednesday with the process. Councilman Trae Welch blasted BREC commissioners in an email that indicated council members had been lobbied to publicly support the zoo move. Councilwoman Chauna Banks has also hosted a series of rallies to ignite opposition.
"If every mayor who represents and gets elected from the vast majority of the parish has asked you not to move the zoo, and you still vote to move the zoo, whose interests are you representing?" Welch asked in a Wednesday email to BREC commissioners. "There has been nothing in this parish more unifying in recent memory for the parish as a whole than opposition to the zoo being moved."
The BREC commission is scheduled to vote on the relocation at 5 p.m. Thursday at BREC's headquarters, 6201 Florida Boulevard.