Groundbreaking held for "rebirth" of Tuten Park

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - City officials gathered Tuesday afternoon in Tuten Park for a groundbreaking ceremony as the renovation for the park gets underway.

The park has been closed in preparation for renovation for last couple of years. The park suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Rita.

Phase 1 of the renovation will include a new educational building, playground, walking paths and gardens. This will allow the City to keep its promise of using the park in a way where visitors will get an unforgettable experience of the great outdoors, while also creating an environment conducive to learning.

"What we're trying to do is open up the front of the park, make that area more open, more like a prairie type environment with grasses , walking trails and gardens," said Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach.

The planned educational building will provide park visitors with an area to learn more about wildlife in the park, as well as wildlife throughout Southwest Louisiana.

"You can have small classes and small educational programs that can actually be conducted here…where people can gather, students can gather," said Roach.

In 2010, the City teamed up with McNeese State University's biology and health sciences department to conduct a biological survey of Tuten Park. The data will be used to develop an educational curriculum.

"This will be great for our students because this is tying in service learning with the regular type of learning that they're doing," said Mark Wygoda, Chair of the MSU Dept. of Biology and Health Sciences Department. "They're benefiting the community as well as themselves."

"I think that in the long term if you manage this park in partnership with the Calcasieu Parish School Board and McNeese, we can put into this park the activities and the programming that this park was originally designed for," said Roach.

Renovation work started on April 18 and is expected to be complete in November. The cost for Phase 1 renovation is estimated at $745,000.

The park was named in honor of Dr. and Mrs. J.D. Tuten and the property was bequeathed to the City by their son.

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