Buried within the silt of the lakes close to LSU could possibly be treasure sufficient to pay for revitalizing and beautifying one among Baton Rouge’s signature facilities — or not.
Relies on how a lot “sinker cypress” — the stumps and logs left by the crews who cleared the swamp that created the six lakes — remains to be on the lakes’ flooring after 88 years. A survey is underway to find the place the uncommon and priceless wooden sits in preparation for deepening the lakes a couple of toes and stopping their reversion again to swampland.
By the tip of the yr, College Lakes LLC, an affiliate of the LSU Basis, the state, the city-parish, BREC and the Baton Rouge Space Basis can have employed a personal firm to dredge and reshape the 4 largest of the six lakes: Metropolis Park, Erie, Campus and School.
Along with being a preferred spot for runners, hikers and bikers, the lakes serve to gather rainwater runoff from surrounding neighborhoods and as a postcard of Baton Rouge for passersby on Interstate 10. Developer drawings, as they so typically do, image idyllic paths round gleaming lakes with fishing piers, an “iconic bridge” and even a boathouse for renting canoes — and everyone seems to be smiling.
All that’s actually lagniappe as soon as the water ranges are deepened and crops are added to filter the runoff from close by streets.
One factor is for certain: State lawmakers this time round aren’t going to pay to dredge the lakes, then enable the personal contractor to maintain — and revenue from — the cypress remnants faraway from the lake backside.
Then a sheriff’s deputy, now a robust state legislator, Bodi White, R-Central, recalled watching the sinker cypress pile up on Stanford Avenue within the Eighties when south finish of the lake system was became Millard Wampold Memorial Park, higher often called Baton Rouge Seaside. The wooden was milled and offered, with huge earnings going to non-public corporations.
When the venture got here round once more this time, White, now the highly effective chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, inserted wording into the 2021 regulation that enables the $16 million appropriation to clarify that the cypress is publicly owned and any dredged up could be offered at a public public sale “with the proceeds of the sale for use for the venture.”
“It’s priceless property and it’s owned by the folks,” White stated of the sinker cypress.
The lakes are owned by three separate entities. Metropolis Park Lake and Lake Erie are owned by the city-parish and maintained by BREC, which runs the parks in East Baton Rouge Parish. The opposite 4 lakes — Campus, School, Crest and College — are owned by LSU.
A couple of decade in the past, the state deliberate to finance one other dredging of the lakes. However the venture didn’t point out sinker cypress, which means the personal contractor would once more get to maintain the wooden that it was paid to take away. A handful of legislators, who knew the wooden’s worth, slow-walked the request, which cleared the Home however was quietly faraway from the Senate’s model of the capital outlay invoice, which offers the funding stream for public development initiatives.
Dan Claitor, then a Baton Rouge state senator, acknowledged that some neighbors had been sad with the plan, and others questioned concerning the sinker cypress. Principally, nonetheless, he and some of his Baton Rouge colleagues felt the cash could be higher spent, throughout a time of funds issues, fixing up the realm’s pockmarked roads and shaky bridges.
Rep. Neil Riser, a Columbia Republican who sponsored laws just lately signed into regulation to higher shield cypress stands, was within the state Senate when the final Baton Rouge lakes venture was being thought-about.
“There was a lack of awareness on that at the moment,” Riser stated when testimony on his invoice veered into what to do about sinker cypress within the lakes close to LSU. “That LSU lake is filled with humongous cypress. … I wish to be actual clear, on the alternative that (dredging) does occur, that these (sinker cypress) … everybody has a good public bid on them.”
The “sinker” a part of the identify comes from harvested timber that sank when floating down rivers and bayous to sawmills again within the day. The water protects the wooden from the sunshine and oxygen that trigger rot. The wooden grain turns into extraordinarily dense, making it usable for flooring, siding, partitions, even counter tops. And the minerals from silt leach into wooden, altering the colour: typically purple, typically inexperienced.
White recollects that sinker cypress taken from the LSU lakes within the Eighties was bluish, nearly purple in some instances.
“It’s uncommon and completely the prettiest wooden on the planet,” stated Wes McAdams, who owns Cajun Cypress and Hardwoods in Baker, which buys and sells lumber, and purchased a number of the sinker cypress piled up on Stanford within the Eighties after it had handed by a number of fingers.
The worth for sinker cypress logs which were minimize into boards, have been kiln-dried and are prepared to be used is about $10 per board foot on the retail degree. New cypress runs about $3 per board foot, and pine is about $2, McAdams stated, including that he offers largely in lumber and doesn’t understand how a lot the stumps could be value.
However relying on the dimensions and the way they give the impression of being, the stumps could possibly be used for furnishings, bowls and paintings.
“I’d like to get a few of this,” McAdams stated. “Final time, it was all about who had political connections. This time, properly, an public sale could be actually good.”
McAdams did some back-of-the-envelope calculations on $10 retail. That in all probability would fetch possibly $5 per board foot on the public sale, and if it’s 500,000 board toes, which is lower than what was pulled out of a portion of the lakes final time, “you then’re taking a look at, what? $2.5 million? And that doesn’t rely the stumps.”
Relying on the how the stumps look and their measurement, they might fetch possibly $500 every.
“It’d pay for the entire venture after which some,” McAdams stated. “However I don’t know what number of of them are down in there.”
And that’s the query.
Again when he was president of LSU, Thomas Boyd moved the college from the place the State Capitol is now to the Gartness Plantation, which was then outdoors town. Development started in 1922, and the neighborhoods round LSU started being constructed. The Backyard District, then a far-flung suburb, related to the campus by Metropolis Park and round what then had been swamps with stands of cypress and tupelo.
In 1929, metropolis planners cleared timber from the marsh to create a lake on the fringe of Metropolis Park Golf Course. Then, the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce began urgent to clear the remainder of Outdated Perkins Swamp and create a 273-acre lake system round which housing could possibly be constructed.
On July 7, 1933, work commenced with the federal Works Progress Administration and a state appropriation paying the payments. With out a lot in the best way of equipment, about 900 males minimize down the timber. These appropriate for lumber — about 1 million board toes — and simple to take away had been dragged out. The remainder of the timber and all the stumps had been left and lined in water.
LSU ready an estimate based mostly on math and studies through the years. A 1934 paper states the bottomland swamp was lined with timber and utterly shaded for a 300-year interval previous to the Nineteen Thirties reducing with, possibly, 121 timber per acre. Wanting on the varied surveys for the reason that Nineteen Thirties, LSU in 2010 estimated 80 to as much as a 100 stumps per acre.
However to know for certain, and to find stumps and fallen timber, the venture earlier this yr employed C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates LLC, based mostly in Lafayette, to make use of distant sensing know-how and manned survey crews.
A dredger hasn’t been chosen but, stated Mark Goodson, the venture adviser.
The contractor will assist with design of the work: how a lot silt to take away, how one can deal with the dredge materials, whether or not some stumps keep to assist with the lake’s biology. The driving issue, he stated, is water high quality and rising the capability of the lakes to carry extra water as a strategy to mitigate flooding. The grasp plan requires depths of 8 to 10 toes with some holes which are about 20 toes deep to create columns for aquatic life. However the specifics are nonetheless within the design section, he stated.
Within the meantime, Goodson stated the duty is to get a deal with on the sinker cypress, the worth of which is pushed by situation and look.
“We don’t know but. If eliminated and what number of are eliminated and what which means for worth,” Goodson stated. “However we’re going to search out out.”