Old South Baton Rouge suffers blight attracting disease carrying mosquitoes

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s trash, tires, and more: Blight piling up in Old South Baton Rouge is turning parts of the area into an eyesore. Abandoned properties are becoming dumping grounds.

“One of our biggest obstacles was encountering hundreds of used tires just discarded there as if it were a trash dump,” said Cindy Wonderful.

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Wonderful is trying to build a community center in Old South Baton Rouge, a studio dedicated to the arts and community events, but she added putting this dream of hers together on a property filled with trash has not been easy.

“Plus, I didn’t want all those tires there anyway, so what I did was move them inside and it was like a mosquito farm. I must’ve had ... I don’t know how many mosquitoes’ bites just moving tires,” explained Wonderful.

Swarming mosquitoes are not uncommon in this area. LSU researchers found Asian Tiger Mosquitoes, which are known for carrying Zika and Dengue. There were more Asian Tiger Mosquitoes in Old South Baton Rouge than the Garden District and the reason why is because they nest better in blighted areas.

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“So, the main reason why we were comparing this low income and high-income neighborhoods is because I had noticed that there was a high portion of abandoned properties, in the low-income neighborhood, in the Old South Baton Rouge neighborhood,” said Rebeca de Jesus, an assistant professor for LSU’s College of the Coast and Environment. “These abandoned properties, unfortunately, become a focus of illegal waste disposable practices.”

Old South Baton Rouge has been trying to bring the neighborhood back for a while. So far, a few projects are in the works to rebuild a few buildings but residents say the dumping needs to stop.

“It can’t be accomplished with one person,” said Brittany Zeno, the executive director of the Old South Baton Rouge Economic Redevelopment group. “It can’t be accomplished with one organization. It’s not going to be accomplished in one day, one week, one month, or one year. It’s something that is going to have to happen and progress over time.”

Residents, like Wonderful, who is using the tires to help create a community garden for the area, are already taking the matter into their own hands.

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