BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) selected the SWA Group on Monday to create a master plan for the development of its lakes.
The project will include dredging of the lakes and a preservation of the wildlife habitats in the area. The design cost of the project has been estimated by BRAF at anywhere between $20 million and $30 million.
"I use them almost every single day," said Jeff Soileau, an avid runner. "I run around them. I walk around them. We bicycle around them. We use kayaks and boards on the water."
Jenni Peters is a runner as well and the owner of Varsity Sports. She said the lakes are what helps Baton Rouge stand apart from many other communities.
"I think they're just a treasure to Baton Rouge, but for the recreational fitness community, it's beyond a lot of the places I've been and I've traveled all over the world running and I go back bragging about the lakes," Peters added.
"We know the lakes will continue to deteriorate and ultimately die and probably revert back to a cypress swamp," said John Spain of BRAF. "Nobody wants that, so there's no doubt people will engage and want us to try and find solutions. What are those solutions? How much will they cost and how much time will it take to get it done?"
The bulk of the project's cost will be to dredge the lakes. Other improvements, like creating bike lanes and walking paths, will also come into play. Users like Soileau said those improvements are well worth the price of the project.
"These lakes have helped speed up the process of making Baton Rouge a more fit, more healthy city and that's a real important thing to me and I think to a lot of the people who live here and that look at Baton Rouge from the outside in," Soileau stated.
Spain said the process of gathering public input on the lakes project will begin once BRAF finalizes its contract negotiations with SWA. He added the feedback stage will last between nine and 12 months and be used by SWA to make its final recommendation and plan.