BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After years of back and forth, a decision on the future of BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo remains in limbo after BREC commissioners voted Thursday, August 24 to move forward with finding a new location for the facility, but did not decide whether the north Baton Rouge attraction would in fact actually move.
After nearly three hours of back and forth, the vote ultimately led back to more fact finding, allowing Superintendent Carolyn McKnight to identify possible locations and potential funding options.
The decision came after some fiery debate on both sides. Many supporters of the plan told commissioners that moving the zoo is an opportunity to give people what they have been asking for and make the facility better.
Those against the move swung back Thursday, saying there are just too many questions to move forward with relocating the zoo. Opponents say commissioners should instead focus more on investing in the current location.
There was a bit of confusion over what exactly the vote would do. Many came to the meeting hoping there would be some sort of resolution on this fight that has gone on now for years; however, it is now seemingly back to the drawing board to conduct more research on the idea.
"We were never saying that we were moving the zoo tonight," McKnight said. "We were saying give me permission to go out and negotiate a potential land opportunity so that we could make sure that it was the most sustainable solution possible."
EBR councilwoman Chauna Banks says it's disheartening to watch the confusion towards the end of the meeting and the lack of questions on the topic from quite a few commissioners.
"Everyone did not understand what was going on and that's what the general audience was trying to clarify and for whatever reason we were ignored," Banks said. "It's like something you've never seen. You know, I stay confident that the zoo will not move but we know that we have to change leadership for it to survive."
While the exact future of the zoo remains in limbo, one side left the meeting saying they were optimistic while others left disappointed.
A public records lawsuit filed by the East Baton Rouge Parish Chamber of Commerce earlier this month against BREC still hangs over the ongoing controversy.
The price tag is said to be $110 million whether the zoo moves or stays put.