NAACP plans to fight potential move of BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo

NAACP plans to fight potential move of BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The possible relocation of the Baton Rouge Zoo is getting heat from the NAACP, and BREC responded Tuesday by saying it stands with the organization in wanting a zoo that serves all the people of East Baton Rouge Parish.

EBR Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said the zoo is filled with potential, but it has been starved to death.

A letter to BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight from the NAACP is more blunt. It tells BREC the NAACP will "actively fight to prevent the relocation" of the zoo. It chides BREC for allowing the zoo's private foundation to hire and pay consultants for a viability study of the 46-year-old animal kingdom on Thomas Road.

A Philadelphia consulting firm used the line, 'every great city, has a great zoo.' The report from the firm noted some obvious drawbacks such as location. The zoo is not centrally located or all that easily accessible in its north Baton Rouge location, which is 15 minutes from downtown.

The study found the people living closest to the zoo are not regular visitors. A potential location to rebuild the zoo from scratch is land south of LSU. The study found, whether in the current or a new location, the zoo should be rebuilt. That cost is estimated at $100 million.

BREC board member Mike Walker said the terse letter from the NAACP is a bit premature, that the board hasn't yet discussed the options available, but that it soon will.

In a statement, BREC said the zoo must sustain and endure to achieve long term success and that begins with attracting more visitors. It said to transform itself, no matter the location, private and public money will be needed.

"We want something for future generations. Nobody knows yet what that is. That's our process of deliberation that we're faced with," Walker said.

However, Banks-Daniel doesn't believe BREC has its heart in keeping the zoo where it is.

"There has been no effort from BREC administration to seek these other opportunities because I believe all the energy has been toward getting enough reasons to move the zoo," said Banks-Daniel.

Walker said unless land in some other area of the Capital City is donated, it is unlikely the zoo would think of moving, but would instead rebuild in its current location.

"It's like Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro Shops sets up someplace where people can see it and they can get to it. Do we have such a place? If you don't, then we stay where we are maybe and make it so attractive that people will want to go to it no matter where it is," he said.

BREC released the following statement regarding the letter from the NAACP:

"The feasibility study currently being performed is part of BREC's overall strategic plan that was completed in the fall of 2014.  At that time, we informed the public that a separate strategic plan would be conducted for the Zoo just as it was recently done for our Golf operations. Such a plan is also a requirement of the Zoo to maintain its accreditation status. Due to the significant cost of performing a strategic plan, we are thankful the Friends of the Zoo organization was able to fund the costs of conducting this first phase of the strategic planning process for the Zoo. This is a great example of the value of public/private partnerships and how they leverage taxpayer funds with private funds to accomplish much more than what we can accomplish through the use of taxpayer funds alone.

The letter from the NAACP to BREC regarding the zoo can be seen below:

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.