On November 10, 2020, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved nearly $5 million to restore six degraded, polluted lakes near the Louisiana State University (LSU) campus. The allocation comprises the city parish’s share of funding for the delayed revitalization project.
With this funding, the Metro Council joins the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department, the state’s Department of Transportation and Development and LSU, each of which have already made their own $5 million allocations toward the project.
The work will dredge the ailing lakes, renovate the infrastructure, restore the landscape and construct new sidewalks and bike paths.
The University Lakes Project includes City Park Lake, Erie Lake, College Lake, Campus Lake, University Lake, and Crest Lake. The project is expected to be a major contributor to revitalizing the economy and quality of life in Baton Rouge, and will generate local jobs.
A coalition of state, local and university officials was formed in fall 2019 to restore the lakes. Partners include the State of Louisiana, the City of Baton Rouge, BREC, LSU and the LSU Athletics Department, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
The LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation, an affiliate of the LSU Foundation, is issuing the contracts and will oversee work that includes dredging all six lakes, building a bridge at May Street, and building sidewalks and bike paths around the lakes.
“While the University Lakes project temporarily took a back seat to our joint work on protecting the community’s health, the state of Louisiana is fully committed to seeing this worthwhile project come to fruition,” said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.
In January 2020, LSU REFF selected a joint venture of Brailsford & Dunlavey and CSRS as the project advisor for the University Lakes Project. Progress was temporarily suspended in spring 2020 while partners prioritized maintaining the health and wellness of the community during the pandemic. In response to the evolving impact of COVID-19, the initiative will occur in phases.
“The Lakes are not only important to LSU, but to the entire state of Louisiana. We are excited to be part of the endless possibilities this project brings to our community,” said LSU Interim President Thomas C. Galligan Jr.
Project partners are finalizing cooperative endeavor agreements to present to both the Metro Council and the BREC Commission at their upcoming September meetings. A grant agreement will be executed with the Louisiana Division of Administration Office of Community Development for Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds to support the next phase of work. A Request for Proposals for the due diligence and design work will be issued shortly thereafter.
“We are pleased to do our part to ensure this important project moves forward. This is a great step for the City of Baton Rouge and the entire parish,” said Mayor Sharon Weston Broome.
BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson echoed her sentiments: “The COVID-19 pandemic has absolutely highlighted the importance of trails and parks in our community, and we are excited to see this work proceed. The lakes area, including Milford Wampold Memorial Park and City-Brooks Community Park, is one of the most utilized recreational areas in the parish, and these improvements will create a truly special place for people to gather, enjoy the outdoors and be active.”
Upon completion of the design phase, the initial phase of construction will begin, on schedule to start in fall 2021. It will include deepening and reshaping City Park, Erie, Campus and College Lakes as well as pedestrian and bicycle path improvements around City Park and Campus Lakes.
Photos courtesy of CSRS.