BREC Parks and Rec System could be split after bill advances

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A bill that would split up the BREC park system passed on the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 11.

SB 205 by Sen. Mack “Bodi” White Jr. (R-Baton Rouge) would essentially take some of the parks that are under the control of BREC and give the cities authority to manage funds and hire employees. But not every mayor is on board with this decision.

“BREC has won national recognition as a parks and recreation system,” said EBR Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “This certainly would take us down and not move us up in terms of our recognition nationally.”

The BREC park system has been around for quite some time. Parks are located all across East Baton Rouge Parish. White believes control over those parks should be in the hands of the cities.

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“Well, what it’s looking to do is give some local control back to cities of Zachary and Central’s recreation departments,” said White.

There are eight parks in Zachary and 14 in Central. But if Gov. John Bel Edwards signs the bill, BREC would no longer have control over what goes on in those parks. BREC superintendent Corey Wilson believes this is a mistake.

“We believe we’re better together as a unified system,” said Wilson.

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Wilson added he doesn’t understand how a system with such credibility could be split up without any public input.

“If you have a bill that can just break that up without the input of the parish, that should be of concern to everyone,” Wilson explained.

White believes if a city had its own system, it would run it more efficiently than one system making decisions for multiple parks. He said that’s especially true when it comes to money.

“Take the dollars and put them into the programs. BREC puts less than 50% of their total dollars into their programs and recreation. Most of it is overhead and other things,” White noted.

“He’s mentioned local control but I think that’s ironic because there’s no one local that he was providing input that’s going to be voted on by people from across the state,” said Wilson.

Now that the bill has passed out of the Senate, it will next go to the House for further debate.

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