Delayed LSU lakes overhaul may soon get funding; plan includes new sidewalks, bike paths, dredging | News

The design work to revitalize the six lakes near LSU, a project hampered for nearly a decade by a lack of funding, is expected to get underway next month. 

Pending funding approvals by the parish’s parks and recreation system and East Baton Rouge Metro Council, the first phase will include dredging the ailing lakes, building a bridge at May Street and installing new sidewalks and bike paths around the recreational ecosystem. 

“This due diligence design work should be done by the end of the year and we expect to start seeing the dredging sometime in 2021,” said Robert Stuart, CEO of the LSU Foundation.

LSU’s Real Estate and Facilities Foundation is spearheading the project, which is based on a 2016 conceptual plan commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation that not only focused on rehabilitating the six lakes but revamping the recreational amenities surrounding them. 

State and local leaders announced Wednesday they had “cobbled together” nearly $50 million in funds to revitalize the six long-neglected lakes…

The lake system is owned and operated by three entities. City Park Lake and Lake Erie, a small body of water to its east, are owned by the city-parish and maintained by BREC. The other four lakes — Campus, College, Crest and University — are owned by LSU. 

The quality of the lake system has deteriorated over the years because of algae overgrowth, sedimentation buildup and a series of fish deaths which officials have blamed on the lack of depth in the lakes.

The most recent fish kill occurred Friday, when approximately 50 dead fish washed ashore at City Park Lake following days of inclement weather and cloudy skies from Hurricanes Marco and Laura, which stifled oxygen production in the waters last week.  

The scope of work in Phase 1 will include deepening and reshaping City Park, Erie, Campus and College lakes and improving the walking and bike paths around City Park and Campus lakes. 

City-parish leaders and state officials spent years trying to fund BRAF’s vision, and those efforts came to fruition late last year when it was announced nearly $50 million federal and state funding, as well as local funding, had been cobbled together to finance the project. 

Much of that funding, Stuart said, originally was to come from the state’s capital outlay fund. But, due to the pandemic, those funds are no longer available.

That means the project will now be implemented in phases as state and local leaders continue to procure more money as the economy recovers.

The first phase is being funded through allocations from the state’s Community Development Block Grant Mitigation fund, BREC and the Metro Council.

If approved by BREC and the city-parish in September, those funds should total $15 million to cover the Phase 1 design, dredging and construction of sidewalks and trailways.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has asked the city-parish parks department to take the lead role in pushing forward an ambitious plan to resto…

The funding from the city-parish will come from revenue generated through the MovEBR sales tax dedicated for infrastructure improvements and community beautification. 

“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,” BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson said in a prepared statement. “The lakes area … 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.”