Metro Councilwoman, BREC superintendent at odds over recognition

RAW: Superintendent Carolyn McKnight on BREC recognition
The two Gold Medal Awards and finalist honors that BREC has been recieved in the past. (Source: WAFB)
The two Gold Medal Awards and finalist honors that BREC has been recieved in the past. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The friction has ramped up between BREC Parks Commission and an East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman.

BREC's getting recognized as one of the best park systems in the country, but Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel questions why BREC is even a finalist.

Superintendent Carolyn McKnight is bursting with excitement just a week after the BREC park system was named as a finalist for a national award for excellence in park and recreation management.

"It is probably the highest recognition that any agency can receive," McKnight said. "It's a huge deal for BREC, it's a huge deal for Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. It is huge."

The Gold Medal Award program through the National Recreation and Park Association labels one agency each year as the best in the nation by measuring factors like planning and program development.

McKnight said she was caught off guard after receiving a call from the organization saying a Baton Rouge council member reached out to the group, telling them BREC did not deserve the honor.

"They told me that was the first time ever that an elected official had contacted them to ask them not to give positive recognition to their community," McKnight added.

BREC has gotten the award two times in the past and has been named a finalist numerous time, clearly demonstrating that they meet the program's standards.

McKnight said she cannot understand why anyone would not want the parks, or Baton Rouge for that matter, recognized.

The person behind the call was Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel.

Scottie: "So your call was basically to find out information?" 
Banks-Daniel: "Basically."
Scottie: "But from what we understand the call was you saying they are not deserving of the reward."
Banks-Daniel: "I don't recall saying that."

What she does recall is asking if the zoo would be included when the program looks at BREC. Banks-Daniel has a problem with how the zoo is being managed and raises concerns as the commission still weighs whether to move the facility to a different location.

"There's a lot of things that, as it relates to moving the zoo, that have an undercurrent of racism, of prejudice, of greed and of pride," Banks-Daniel said.

McKnight said BREC is nowhere near making a decision about the zoo's location and she is shocked tensions would rise to this level.

"Most people want the best for their community. They serve to make their community better not to hurt their community. And that was really disappointing to me," McKnight said.

McKnight said the call to the organization would not have any affect on their decision-making process.

Anyone who would like to share their comments with the organization can email

On a mobile device? Click the link to see the full interviews with both Carolyn McKnight and Chauna Banks-Daniel -

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