Proposal aims to relocate BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, renovate existing site

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight pitched a plan to BREC commissioners Thursday night that could potentially solve the answer to the heavily debated future of BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

"It's now time to stop talking about it and move and act and see what the public would like to see happen," McKnight said.

The zoo's future has been debated for more than a year and McKnight thinks the answer should be to redevelop the existing space at Greenwood Park, adding water and amusement parks, soccer fields, horseback riding trails and more. She believes it is part of an overall vision that will breathe new life into the area.

"This is an opportunity for Baton Rouge to have the most amazing place in the country," McKnight said. "This is quality of life that we're talking about here and it's important to have it."

The investment sounds too good to be true, and for some it is. Becky Bond, who is firmly against the idea, says the plan's call to move the zoo is not well thought out and frankly, a waste of resources.

"There is absolutely no reason why it needs to be relocated," Bond said. "I think it's just somebody wants a brand new, shiny thing to relocate into South Baton Rouge."

The zoo project is slated to cost roughly $110 million, while the reimagined Greenwood Park is only $40 million. Bond claims a possible move would rob North Baton Rouge of one of its few remaining resources. She says moving forward with a plan that does that is not fair.

"North Baton Rouge is in dire need of an economic driver and there's absolutely no reason why it needs to be relocated. There is ample real estate in that area," Bond added.

Bond believes the only problem with the current location is that it is not being invested in properly, the only area where those for and against the plan agree.

"In the meantime the zoo languishes and those animals are suffering and the facility is just dying a slow and painful death," Bond said.

"We are limping along. We know that and we are not doing this so that we can close it," added McKnight.

McKnight though says she is more concerned about the zoo's success and believes it must be in a place that makes sense. For now, that new location has yet to be decided.

"The zoo is in a location where people are not going. If we're able to move then we know we could be in a place where we would double the attendance," McKnight said.

While the plan must first get the green light from the BREC commission the public also has the chance to weigh in on an online survey launched Thursday night.

McKnight admits feedback on the survey could alter how the plans move forward.

WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked McKnight what would happen if the commission says yes and the people say no.

"If the people say no, we can't do it," McKnight said.

To take the survey for yourself, click here.

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