Caddo Commissioner proposes zoo

Turning a prison into a family friendly zoo may seem like a bit of a contrast, but that's exactly what Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson would like to see happen with the now closed Forcht Wade Correctional Center.

The state closed Forcht Wade along with 2 other prisons this year because of budget cuts.

"I think it would bring a better quality of life and more family oriented activity," said Epperson.

He says a Caddo Parish zoo isn't a new idea. Back in the 90's the parish formed a zoological association, but the idea faded. Now he would like to bring it back.

"We could say hey, we got 100 acres here, and this is going to be our basic foundation for a zoo," he said of the land where Forcht Wade is located.

The land used to belong to Caddo Parish, but Caddo donated it to the state when the prison opened. To use the land for anything new, the parish would have to get the land back. Parish Administrators say when they called to ask if they could have the land back the state said they may want to keep it as a place to evacuate prisoners from South Louisiana during hurricanes, and they would consider giving it back if they don't use it for 2 years.

"We looked at the contract to see if we had an out that we could get it back, and it does not give us an out to get it back because it was donated to the state," said Parish Administrator Woodrow Wilson Jr.

Another challenge will be funding, but Epperson has some ideas of where money could come from.

"You're gonna have corporations that are going to donate, non profit organizations that may be in the process of fighting extinction. Other zoos might have an excess of animals. There are gonna be grants, both public and private.  We're not saying it's going to happen overnight, but we're saying it can happen.." said Epperson

Other commissioners said even if the parish can't figure out a way to open a zoo, they would still like to get the land back.

"If for no other reason we could use it to expand our park or a lot of other recreational uses," said Mike Thibodeaux.

Epperson asks any citizens interested in helping with the effort to bring a zoo to Caddo Parish to contact him at the Parish Commission offices at (318) 226-6596.

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