Mayor: ‘Blood, sweat, tears, money’ poured into Tuten Park restoration

Published 5:51 pm Thursday, March 28, 2024

The back trails of Tuten Park have been reopened to the public just in time for spring.

The park, at 3801 Nelson Road, was established in the late 1970s with land donated to the city of Lake Charles by the Tuten family. It features 24 acres that are used as an educational and nature facility, and was once densely forested.

The woodlands — which serve as sanctuary for birds, wildlife and native flowers and trees — was leveled by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The entire park was closed for 32 months due to the $300,000 of damages to the fencing, concrete walking paths, canopies and park amenities. The front portion reopened in the fall of 2022, but the back half remained closed.

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Ninety percent of the trees of Tuten Park were lost. City officials and Sasol employees have worked for years to clear debris, and reforest and restore the park’s natural tree canopy.

The restoration of the back trails cost $183,000 and was fully funded through grants from Sasol.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said Sasol is one of the city’s most “impactful and strategic partners.”

“Sasol has been amazing to the city of Lake Charles. They have poured their blood, sweat, tears and money into this park, and we would not be celebrating today if it wasn’t for Sasol.”

Wesley Hayes, operation coordinator for Resource Environmental Solutions, said reforesting the land was a “battle of attrition that Sasol took on.”

The efforts started in the fall of 2023. The first step was to clear acres of downed trees on and around the trails, followed by the reshaping of water paths in the park to ensure better drainage.

The next step was tree replanting. This project has been split in two parts. The first part was completed in February of this year by Sasol employees as part of their 1,000 Trees in 1,000 Days. Five hundred and fifty trees were planted, and 500 more will be planted in late 2024 or early 2025.

To foster a healthy habitat for the flora and fauna of Tuten Park, all of the trees planted are native to the area. They include species like American elm, American sycamore, cypress, maple, water hickory, southern pecan and several species of oak, Hayes said.

Sarah Hughes, director of corporate affairs for Sasol, said environmental stewardship is at the core of Sasol’s social investment strategy. Projects like the reforestation of Tuten Park are community investments that improve green spaces for citizens of Lake Charles, she said.

She commended the work of the Sasol employees who volunteered to help with the replanting effort.

“This is not just where our employees work. It is where they live, its where they’re raising their families. We’re grateful to our employees to making the commitment, making these projects happen and taking some pride in our community.”

Sasol has been a long-time partner of city. They have been the city’s Partner in Parks collaborator for Tuten and Riverside parks for five years. Eric Walker, vice president of operations, Sasol, said in a release that

“Our longstanding partnership with the city of Lake Charles is a prime example of how good things happen when industry and government entities combine forces, and a lot of the credit goes to our employees for making the park improvements a reality. Our hope is that Lake Charles residents enjoy Tuten Park for decades to come.”

The partnership has resulted in funded master plans for both parks that include green infrastructure, updated drainage and the Nature in Focus Program, the educational part of Sasol’s partnership with the city.

The next Nature in Focus event is scheduled for Saturday, May 25. From 10 a.m. to noon, the event will focus on birds and will include a “special edition” of Art in the Park.

Tuten Park is open daily “from dawn to dusk.”