Nearly a decade after acquiring the nearly 500-acre Frenchtown Road Conservation Area, partially bound by the Comite and Amite rivers, BREC is taking steps to upgrade the primitive park, which doesn’t currently have running water or bathrooms.
Bids are expected to go out within the next month for a new $1 million education center at the facility. BREC purchased a house near the conservation area property in 2016 and had plans to renovate the building into an educational center but nine feet of water in the building from the 2016 floods halted progress.
Using $800,000 from the $3.6 million given to the park system from FEMA, Assistant Superintendent Reed Richard says BREC plans to start construction on the new center this fall. The center was designed by Baton Rouge-based Fusion Architecture and will be elevated 14 feet in the air.
BREC is holding a meeting this evening at the Greenwell Springs Road Regional Branch Library and will run a month-long online survey to gain public input for the area. The agency hired Halff Associates, out of Texas, for $48,000 to compile a master plan for the conservation area, which Richard expects to be completed by early October, with work on the first phase starting next year.
Cost estimates for the first phase, as well as BREC’s total potential investment in the property, wouldn’t be available until the master plan is released, Richard says.
The 500-acre park is one of the most diverse habitats BREC owns, says Amanda Takacs, assistant director of natural resource management. Among possible improvements that could be made to the park are additional hiking trails, kayak and canoe launches, educational signage and tree canopy walkways.
“This is truly a unique one-of-a-kind area,” Takacs says. “We hope to allow people through the master plan to experience more of the park and learn as they experience it. This is a state-park-level facility in East Baton Rouge Parish that’s accessible to all residents.”