By Nick BeJeaux
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is continuing the development of the LSU Lakes, and before they jump into the next phase of the project they want to hear from you.
Using www.thelakes.mindmixer.com, BRAF is looking for feedback from local joggers, dog walkers, bikers, bird enthusiasts, fishermen and “creative loafers” on how they use the lakes, ideas for improvements and even their favorite spot on the lakes.
“Using this site allows members of the community to contribute from their own homes and on their own schedules,” said Mukul Verma, director of communications for BRAF. “Using this kind of platform opens up a broader range of ideas for development of the lakes than we would otherwise get from meetings or gatherings, which are limited by space, number of seats – those kinds of things.”
Many of BRAF’s higher-ups (Executive Vice President John Spain, Director of Civic Leadership Initiatives Beverly Moore, and Project Director Lauren Crapanzano) will receive information from the site, but they aren’t the only ones. Representatives of the Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects and the SWA Group, the private firms spearheading the development of the lakes, will also receive feedback from the site.
“Both the SWA Group and JCLA have their own ideas for the development of the lakes, but they wanted to hear from the community that uses and lives by the lakes and we wanted that as well,” said Verma.
The Houston-based SWA group was selected in late June to draft the masterplan for the lakes’ development. BRAF raised $750,000 to fund the development and its planning process, which began with setting up this Mindmixer page and is expected to take the better part of a year. The SWA Group and the JCLA were among five other firms that present proposals during a public meeting in June, where Kinder Baumgardner of The SWA Group and Jeffrey Carbo explained their vision for the LSU Lakes. Both spent their college years in Louisiana. Baumgardner remembered when the Lakes were dredged for the first time in 1980.
“This project is about water – water is the heart of Louisiana,” he said. “Our history is in water and we can’t ignore that over the course of this project. When I look at the lakes, it looks just like it did when I was kid. It looks perfect. Why would we want to change it and screw that up? But I think we can just as easily screw it up by not doing enough.”
“In the old days, it was understood that nature in cities is a bad thing, but now we’ve changed our thinking. The lakes are starting to revert to what they once were, but if we try to correct that too strongly, the balance will never be correct.”
Carbo underlined the gravity of this project as another point of pride for Baton Rouge.
“This is a pivotal moment,” he said. “We’re all Louisianans and I think we’re longing for another thing to point to with pride and this is our opportunity for that. We want to take visitors to this place and show them what we’ve done. This project is, for us, a once in a lifetime experience.”
For the full presentation and the subsequent Q&A session, look on BRAF’s YouTube channel.