Nearly two years of conversations, planning and public involvement have culminated in a fabulous groundbreaking ceremony at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo within Greenwood Community Park. The event, attended by over 80 persons including elected officials, BREC commissioners and Baton Rouge Zoo board members, BREC staff, project design team members, and community stakeholders enjoyed perfect weather as dignitaries lifted shovels full of dirt, symbolizing the beginning of construction. Internationally acclaimed design firms Sasaki and Torre Design Consortium led the development of a pair of master plans during 2019 – for the park and zoo respectively – which are guiding substantial renovations and improvements to both the zoo and the park. This event celebrates the beginning of the highest priority “Phase One” improvements.
The groundbreaking took place in a clearing at the rear or service entrance of the zoo, accessible from within Greenwood park. This is significant because the location is the approximate position of the new public entry into the zoo as proposed in the master plans. The zoo will be “flipped”, and entry will no longer be from Thomas Road but rather from within Greenwood Community Park itself which will also be receiving extensive Phase One renovations. Highlights of these improvements can be viewed on the “Vision” page of this website and include a grand drive into the park with a new parking facility serving both the zoo and the park, an expanded and improved J.S. Clark Golf Course, an adventure playground, and a “bayou promenade” linking the new zoo entry plaza to the heart of Greenwood Park. New zoo exhibits in Phase One include a completely new giraffe habitat, a pigmy hippo exhibit, and much more.
Remarks by dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony all expressed joy and excitement about the new attractions and improvements which will provide entertainment, education and pleasure to not only residents of the greater Baton Rouge area, but also will become a destination for visitors from surrounding cities and states. This speaks to the significant positive economic impact that this project will have for north Baton Rouge. The Lemoine Company will serve as general contractor and they provided some heavy equipment as background scenery for the event, while Zoo staff let a Southern Three-Banded Armadillo (native to South America) scurry about on the pile of earth during the ceremony. Strong partnerships and community involvement will continue to make this project a valuable asset in our near future.