BREC eyes spot that flooded as potential new home for zoo; some not happy

Becky Bond (Source: WAFB)
Becky Bond (Source: WAFB)
Phil Frost, zoo director (Source: WAFB)
Phil Frost, zoo director (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The fight over whether to move BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo to a new location rages on after reports that BREC leaders have decided to move forward with a feasibility study on a location that was previously taken off the list of possible options.

Becky Bond, a vocal opponent of the move, calls the latest push downright wrong. "This is a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars," said Bond. "It does seem odd to me that there's so much money for everything else, but what we need to have done at the zoo."

BREC leaders struck a deal with engineering an firm, paying a little more than $17,000 to study whether the state fairgrounds on Airline Highway is a feasible option, but Bond says it will not be the home run leaders think. Her biggest concern is that in August of 2016, most of the site was underwater.

"This site flooded and I think that there's a need now for the community to kind of wake up," said Bond.

Right after the flood, leaders told the public the park was off the table. Bond says for them to pursue it now is alarming. "The fact that they are telling people something different every time they hear from them is concerning," Bond added.

Zoo director, Phil Frost, says it's still very early in the process and that no decision has been made. He claims they did back away from the fairgrounds after the flood, but since then, they have heard from experts who say it may still work. "That site ranked very high at the very beginning, but of course we all know what happened in August of 2016," said Frost. "We had an opportunity to relook at that piece of property and we've had engineers to come in and work with us to say those challenges that we felt were challenges can be taken care of."

When asked about the taxpayer dollars spent on the study, Frost says it's something that has to happen with any location they consider. Frost says their goal is to find the best option and believes critics cannot have it both ways.

"On one hand, our opponents have said, 'Well are you going to do studies on all of the areas?' and then they turn around and say, 'Why are you wasting money on a study?' So we're really not sure what they're real motive is," he added.

While the exact future of the zoo remains in question, what is clear is that the back and forth over it will likely not end anytime soon. "I think they're just trying to drag it out as long as possible until the public just quits paying attention to it so then they can just go do what they want," said Bond.

"What we're going to do is the right thing," Frost added.

BREC leaders are expected to present findings of the study at their next meeting on Thursday, March 22.

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