Sasaki re-envisions Baton Rouge’s Greenwood Community Park

The bayou promenade – a community “front porch” for Baton Rouge

At 660 acres, Greenwood Community Park is the largest park in East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish. Adjacent to the community of Baker and North Baton Rouge, the current park’s uses account for only 15% of the total site and are surrounded by 27 holes of golf.  The Baton Rouge Zoo is located within the site but is disconnected from the park, leading visitors to believe these are two separate facilities. In 2018, Sasaki was hired to reimagine the future of Greenwood Park and lead a community process that worked in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Zoo—which underwent a simultaneous master planning process led by Torre Design Consortium, Ltd. Then, in late 2019, the Sasaki and Torre team were asked to lead Phase 1 design implementation of the plan.

Designed with the best of Louisiana’s natural and cultural environments in mind, the new park serves as a place to get away and come together. The balanced nature-based and active program elements are stitched together by a network of multi-modal trails that connect people to this place. The reimagined BR Zoo, now opening into the park, becomes part of a larger constellation of community uses that serve people from all walks of life. The new Greenwood Park will be a neighborhood park for Baker and North Baton Rouge and a regional destination for EBR and beyond.

The overall design vision for the park

The design’s first phase, which broke ground on December 8, 2020, will include a signature adventure playground, a new entry building and sequence for the zoo relocated within Greenwood Park, AZA re-accreditation for the zoo, a giraffe feeding, a pygmy hippo exhibit, re-routing of the zoo train, an expanded and upgraded J.S. Clark Golf Course, the restoration of Cypress Bayou, and the creation of the Signature Bayou Promenade.

Greenwood Park is easily accessible for all of East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish and beyond
The team considered different social factors, like population density, when designing the park

At the core of the Master Plan process was a site discovery and “uncovery” phase, which utilized detailed mapping to reveal hidden information about the site’s past and present conditions. As a result, the Master Plan is rooted in a deep understanding of Greenwood Park’s ecological, hydrological, and cultural conditions.

Different community engagement methods, like this gameboard, encouraged people to share feedback on the plan throughout the design process
The team prioritized bringing a multitude of perspectives to the table to inform their design

Community engagement was an integral part of defining the vision for Greenwood Park. To invite as many voices as possible into the process, engagement methods were designed to be broad-reaching in terms of age and demographics by using numerous locations and tools. Innovative strategies included analog Instagram boards, a gumball preference game, and a 24’x22’ walkable master plan. In addition to collecting feedback, the engagement was seen as a two-way street—with materials providing analysis of the physical conditions of the existing park to spark a deeper connection to the park and its future.

At the final public meeting a diverse range of stakeholder holders and community members were present, demonstrating the broad reach of the team’s community engagement strategy which was foundational to the plan
Sasaki principal Anna Cawrse, the project manager for the Sasaki team, shows a community member where they are currently located within the proposed design

The common themes found in the results of the robust engagement formed the four guiding principles for the Master Plan: Celebrate Louisiana’s Nature, A Park for the Everyday and the Big Day, Open Up and Reach Out, and Welcome and Grow. Each of the guiding principles acted as a framework for the creative process.

A series of four guiding principles established early in the process through listening to the aspirations of the community and stakeholders provided a benchmark for success as the design evolved. These four elements can be found in all phases of parks future.
The team referred to three main site analysis factors
Mapping out the different design constraints and opportunities
Different themes began emerging from community feedback

The master plan includes reorienting the Zoo entrance to the park’s interior, where it is connected to the Waterfront Building along the new Bayou Promenade, ultimately making it part of a larger constellation of community uses that serve people of all ages. A robust trail system creates new recreational opportunities for walkers, runners, bikers, and horseback riders. An expanded lake and new blue trails both create recreational opportunities while also serving a hydrological function of capturing stormwater during flooding events. An iconic adventure playscape will engage people of all ages in outdoor recreation. The park will serve both regional demand for festivals and events, as well as local needs for park access to day-to-day amenities and activities by including major anchors—such as a large concert venue as well as quality-of-life features like community gardens and walking trails.

The plan establishes a process to transform the 660 acre park and zoo into a space that serves as a community hub for the surrounding neighborhoods and as a destination for the people of greater Baton Rouge
The vision for the site unfolds into a series of programmatic spaces that are tied together by restored bayous and miles of trails
Three different illustrative plans incorporated different aspects of the plan’s guiding principles
Greenwood’s Louisiana Playground offers children of all ages something to do. Elevated walks, large slides, larger-than-life animal play features, and delta-themed water play features weave in and out of mature forest. This feature was the number one priority that came out of the extensive community engagement process.
The final design, shown here, brings together a whole host of technical constraints like flooding, sensitive habitat, and existing site features with a broad set of community desires

Implementation

After the master plan was approved in September 2019, the team was then selected to move into full design services for Phase 1 implementation—which includes restoring the Cypress Bayou and a new bayou promenade, an adventure playground, a zoo entry plaza, an enhanced entry road, and park architectural elements. See the team’s design vision in the images below.

 Adventure play
Bayou Walk
Zoo entry plaza
Enhanced entry road

Greenwood Community Park

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Landscape Architect: Sasaki

Images Credit:

About Damian Holmes 3232 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/