BREC commissioners approve new study, stall on zoo relocation decision

BREC commissioners approve new study, stall on zoo relocation decision
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo (Source: WAFB)
BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There were more questions than answers at the BREC Commission meeting Thursday night as commissioners still wrestle with the decision of whether to relocate BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo.

BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight said the decision is far from being made.

"We don't know that yet," she said. "Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but we don't know that yet. It's too soon. It's just too soon."

Consultants with Schultz & Williams and CLR Design are urging the zoo to leave its current location on Thomas Road for something better suited to handle future growth and cultural changes.

"As we look towards how zoos and how people use zoos and how people use cultural organizations in particular, it's going to change dramatically and we need to be part of that," Rick Biddle said.

The plan, whether on Thomas Road or elsewhere, is projected to cost $110 million. The high price tag is creating even higher stakes for the commission.

"If I spend $5 million, not $110 million but $5 million, then I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing, the right place, the right way for the right reason and I cannot and I will not move fast," McKnight added.

Some questioned if everything possible has been done to sustain the existing location, but zoo director Phil Frost said yes. In fact, he said there has been more than $7.9 million worth of improvements pumped into the zoo since 2005.

"And so that's where we are today. We're looking at a zoo that's doing a great job, but we know it can do a better job and in order to do that we've got to have the resources to do that," Frost added.

Regardless of the final decision, commissioners believe the goal is to create a zoo and an experience that everyone can be proud of.

"We can't afford to stay the same, but we need to do this," McKnight said. "This is an important decisions for this community, and we're not taking it lightly and we're not rushing to judgment on it. We're going to move deliberate and intentionally to make sure that we deliver the product that this community deserves."

The commission approved a feasibility study presented by consultants with Schultz & Williams and CLR Design.

BREC will now comb through that study before they determine next steps.

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