Tuten Park is a 24-acre park located on Nelson Road in Lake Charles, La. The implementation of the Master Plan currently underway addresses not only design and program issues, but recovery from the damage caused by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Tuten Park suffered a loss of 80% of its existing trees due to the storm, therefore the Master Plan calls for restoration of the tree canopy. In order to conserve and protect the natural resources of the park, the mission of the Tuten Park renovation is to establish a woodland park in the middle of an urban area that promotes interaction with the natural environment. As stated in the documents bequeathing the property to the City of Lake Charles, "This land shall always be used and maintained as a natural woodland park area. In this connection, the purpose of the park is a sanctuary for birds, native flowers, and trees. It is dedicated to the enjoyment and education of the public particularly our youth."
The Tuten Park Master Plan undertakes issues of safety, education about natural systems and forests, storm water management, and wetland assimilation. The passive recreation components in the park are multi-use paths and nature trails, picnic areas, shade exhibits, a naturalized streambed, wetlands, ponds, preserved forests, and display gardens. Added features will be a classroom building, improved restrooms, an amphitheater, a lookout tower, and a children's playground, all designed to draw visitors to the park to experience and learn about this unique urban forest.
In collaboration with our residents, landscape architect, and City staff, the City of Lake Charles began the renovation of Tuten Park in 2008. The prime mission of Tuten Park is set forth that the "land shall always be used and maintained as a natural woodland park area. In this connection, the purpose of the park is a sanctuary for birds, native flowers and trees. It is dedicated to the enjoyment and education for the public particular our youth." Ensuring the intent of the previous land owner, the landscape architect developed a Master Plan to not only meet the intended use of the property, but to also enhance the overall habitat and also meet green initiatives.
A consistent remark made during the public workshop was that Tuten Park offers a unique user experience with nature in the middle of the city. The park is composed of mostly natural forest land that evokes strong character and a sense of peace within the busy city. The design concept enhances the experience while increasing the security and safety of the park.
A unique destination in the City of Lake Charles will be created for families, nature enthusiasts, gardeners, and plant lovers by preserving and enhancing the parks major assets: its natural areas and forest stands. Efforts were made during the design process to increase visibility at the entrance and minimize disturbance to existing features while creating winding trails and open areas. Many program features will be added to the park in future phases to include, amphitheater, ponds, picnic pavilions, gardens, boardwalks, education center, and enhanced nature trails.
Tuten Park`s Wildlife area is where the public will enjoy the natural settings of the natural wooded areas. The Wildlife area development will include enhancement of walking trails, boardwalks, and jogging trails in natural areas will provide for enhanced use of existing natural site amenities. Most trails were designed to accommodate a fitness workout circuit. Trail surfaces will be constructed with soft materials and wind thru out the 14 acres.
The City understands the importance of maintaining the natural habitat of the park. Tuten Park contains 4.8 acres of Jurisdictional Wetlands formed in a "pimple-mounded" topography. The wetland areas will act as natural habitats for local plants and animals. These very important eco-systems will be maintained and studied by our local students. Selected delineated areas, picture, will also be enhanced with additional native wetland plant varieties to create a better habitat for small animals, reptiles, and insects.
Throughout the areas of the Wildlife area will be planted shade exhibits. These exhibits will showcase native and exotic species of plants who find their habitats in the shady forests of South Louisiana.
The City of Lake Charles and McNeese State University recently entered into an agreement allowing for a Biological Survey at Tuten Park to be conducted by members of the Department of Biology and Health Sciences at McNeese. This is a multi-year project that will involve observations and collections under both daytime and nighttime conditions and at various stages of the calendar year.
The Biological Survey will result in the identification of macroscopic animal life (mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, insect, spider, snail, etc.) and plant life (tree, shrub, grass, moss fern, wildflower, etc.) throughout Tuten Park. The data will provide useful data to be used in furthering Tuten's educational goals and be used for on-site courses presented to school students visiting the park
Tuten Park's Green Initiatives:
The City of Lake Charles has recognized that urban/storm water run-off presents present and future environmental concerns and requires hard engineering solutions. Tuten Park is now playing a leading role in supporting and developing a sustainable solution using a plant-based technology that mimics nature's wetlands and ponds.
The design of the park lot was to gather storm water run-off from the parking lot into a Bioswale prior to flow into the City's storm drains. This Bioswale was designed to capture pollutant runoff and prevent it from entering the storm drain and then Lake Charles. The bioswale, acts as a biofilter, and the design of parking areas flows toward the bioswale. As the runoff enters the bioswale, it is cleaned before entering a watershed or storm sewer. This prevents the urban situation where the rains flow into storm drains and cause secondary environmental problems. Or it becomes surface water that causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater. Some studies claim this can reduce the pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30 percent.
To further implement sustainable solutions a Rain Garden was designed and constructed adjacent to the Education Building. The 4800 square feet of "rain garden" encompasses various native water plants to Louisiana.
Bio-retention ponds, commonly called "rain gardens," are landscape features that help control rainwater runoff. The runoff for this location comes from the roof of the Educational Building, walking path, and adjacent compacted lawn areas. Impervious surfaces cause problems, especially during the large storm events. Structures, low-lying depressions and other landscape constructions that slow and deter running water allow heavy rains to be absorbed into the soil. This prevents the urban situation where the rains flow into storm drains and cause secondary environmental problems. Or it becomes surface water that causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater. Thus, rain gardens are essentially all landscape features that capture, channel, and divert natural rain that falls on a property. This designed landscape is now a plant rain garden.
Recycled Construction Materials
To continue to improve our Recycling initiative, recycled vinyl board were used on the park benches, walking bridge, picnic tables, and trash receptacles. The Education Building utilized recycled vinyl decking for the ramp and pavilion. The educational building was designed with large glass windows to give the feeling of being outside while in the room.