I am truly appalled at the recent article titled, “Lake Brigade, Volunteer group works to clean up banks of University and City Park lakes,” for its utter lack of responsiveness to the underlying issue. Articles, reports and publications are all too familiar to Baton Rouge’s beloved University Lake system, and some of those writings present a pretty clear picture about what is wrong with these lakes, but yet we residents (I recently moved) refuse to listen.
For starters these lakes are not supposed to be lakes at all. As part of a massive public works project in the early part of the 1900s, Perkins Swamp was deforested, dredged and turned into the continuous maintenance problem that we have today. Now I am not saying we should turn the lakes back into a solid stand of cypress-tupelo swamp (that would be awesome by the way) because lord knows that those lakes and the trail that runs around them are among of Baton Rouge’s most-valuable assets and one of the most-accessible public spaces in all of the parish.
It is Louisiana, you know that, right? The American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is a spectacular native wetland flower and should not be an indicator of a messy lake. These “water plants” and the rambling mess of smilax, willow, buttonbush and red maple that keeps growing on the side of the banks is the lakes’ way of telling everyone to leave it alone.
Let us put all your fertilizer- and herbicide-infested lawns aside for a second and talk facts. These water bodies have very high rates of nitrogen and phosphorus, petroleum by-products and fecal coliform. Wait. What? That’s right, feces. (It comes from illegal sewer taping and storm drain backup, if you were wondering.) A 2004 Army Corp of Engineers report stated that these lakes were not suitable for human recreation. Yep, you heard it correctly. Our recreational lakes are not suited for human recreation.
What fascinates me the most though is that same report stated that 50 acres of wetlands would be needed to reduce the pollution levels to a point where human recreation would be safe.
Was anything done? No. Instead, our newspaper publishes an article about local heroes, who by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, have destroyed or hindered the creation of maybe 5-10 acres of wetlands. That’s not cool at all.
We should not be scared of plants. They clean water and support habitat, something I think we can all agree is a good thing. The city and its people need to realize that the lakes cannot survive the way they are. The swamp must grow.
landscape architecture, land planning