Possibilities Endless For Tuten Park Redesign

Reported By: Lee Peck

It was the case that shocked the community and locked the gates to Tuten Park, following the arrests of 17 men who allegedly tried to solicit sex in the park's wooded areas. Wednesday night the city unveiled it's redesign plan for Tuten Park.

Inspired by her latest job, landscape architect Dana Brown says the possibilities of new experiences in Tuten Park are endless.

"There are a lot of elements that we can make it interesting and different for everybody each and every time they come to the park,"said Brown. "They tend to be educational, tend to be things that let you enjoy different species of plants, different habitats, different visual experiences, different smells and sites. You can walk, sit or jog,"

Brown says the park's redesign would require the removal of more than 80% of Tuten Park's trees that fell during Hurricane Rita. As well as overgrown underbrush towards the front of the park. She says that would make way for a new nature center that would be fully staffed.

Project designer Justin Lemoine says the nature center would serve as a visitor's center and pavilion area, as well as the park's only entrance.

"When designing it the challenge was how to get people into the park and they're in the building, but they're still in the park," said Lemoine. "They're still surrounded by the park because the walls basically seem to disappear with the glass and it's the only way in and out of the park."

Beyond that they would introduce new fish ponds and wetlands utilizing the park's existing drainage streams. Boardwalk features would also be added throughout the park as would new picnic and playground areas comparable to Millennium Park.

New trees, flowers and plants native to our area are also incorporated into the design. And to enjoy it all there's even a proposed lookout tower in the center of the park.

"It consists of several levels. If you get to a certain level in the forest, you can see how the vine grow, and this level of the forest is where the canopy of trees begins to develop. Up here at the top you have a good view of what's around you... a view like no other a top the forest," explained Lemoine.

After reviewing the conceptual plan, the community says they like what they saw and feel like the city really listened to their concerns.

"And they've addressed the issues that we were concerned with and created a very family friendly park that we would be happy to take our kids to," said Becky Clements.

"I was impressed the use of natural water and drainage and how the plan to incorporate that," said Dale DeSonier. "Also for me it was very interesting to see the variety of natural plants and to have pictures of them because we tend to forget what they really look like in their different growing seasons."

"I just like the whole thing... The running water it was cool too," said 11-year-old Adrian Durham.

"Definitely the layout, it was something nice that's going to be in Lake Charles that people should want to go to," said 13 year old Cameron Durham.

The park's original 21 acres were donated by the Tuten family as a nature park and just recently 3 more acres were given to the city. Now it's important they keep it a nature park, otherwise they'll have to give back the donation.

The plan was presented by Brown and Danos Land Designs of Baton Rouge. They'll take feedback from the community and the city and revise a master plan to be presented in February.

Mayor Randy Roach says the project will be done in three phases and budgeted for the next fiscal year beginning in October. But before we can see any changes at Tuten Park, the Lake Charles City Council must approve and vote on what Lake Charles can afford.