zoo renderings

A preliminary rendering for the new plans at the Baton Rouge Zoo.

BAKER — BREC will unveil its master plan for improvements to both Greenwood Park and Baton Rouge Zoo on Aug. 17 with a party to which the public will be invited, BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson told the Baker City Council on Tuesday.

The Baton Rouge Recreation Commission has been planning to improve the zoo since it decided in 2018, in response to public outcry, to keep it in its current location on Thomas Road, Wilson said.

One of the main parts of the plan is to move the zoo entrance to Highway 19 and combine the parking lot with Greenwood Park, bringing more visibility to both facilities. Improvements to the zoo and Greenwood Park will be done in phases, with a groundbreaking in summer 2020, Wilson said.

Some $5 million earmarked in 2014 for zoo improvements still hasn’t been spent, Wilson said, and that money will be used for phase one.

Upgrades planned for Greenwood Park include expanding the Waterfront Building, adding a kitchen for public use and more space to the popular structure.

“We hear that people hold weddings there and they have to bring in food,” Wilson said.

BREC also plans to renovate the Cohn Arboretum house within Cohn Arboretum on Foster Road to preserve the history of the building, while at the same time bringing it up to date, he said.

Mayor Darnell Waites said the city and BREC are seeking state funds to bring softball and baseball fields in Baker up to tournament level so high school teams can compete within the city. At least $1.6 million is needed for those improvements, the mayor said.

Wilson also addressed the concern that parks in certain parts of the parish are kept up better than others.

“We are working to address that,” he said. “We grade parks and every park should have an A.”

In other business, the council:

  • recognized Jean Green Byers, who is retiring as the director of the Baker Museum, for receiving the Powell/Reznikoff award from the Baton Rouge Council on Human Relations.
  • heard from Doris Alexander that she misspoke during the last meeting and that the White Linen Night sponsored by the Baker Pilot Club is a benefit for all Baker High School seniors, not for the Dana Carpenter Scholarship Fund.
  • heard from Waites that tickets for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to be held 6:30 a.m. June 28 at the Baker Municipal Center, 3325 Groom Road, cost $6 per person and can be obtained by calling (225) 778-0300. The guest speaker will be Constable Terrica Williams.
  • heard from Police Chief Carl Dunn that the Citizens Advisory Board to Law Enforcement will meet at Lagniappe Restaurant at 14030 Plank Road at 6 p.m. June 27.
  • heard from Brenda G. Jackson that a free National HIV Testing Day event will be held June 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Metropolitan Community Church of Baton Rouge, 7747 Tom Drive, featuring a monologue titled “Why did you Run and Tell that?” and various speakers, as well as free HIV testing. For more information, call (225) 288-8161.
  • voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to pay all city employees at least $15 per hour, but took no action to amend the budget. Waites, however, said that under the current budget, 80 percent of Baker city workers already make at least $15 per hour and after the raises go into effect in 2020, the lowest paid city workers will receive $16 per hour.