Louisiana State Parks Rebuild Following Hurricane Ida

In their continuing coverage of the commercial, regional, and environmental aftermath left in the wake of 2021’s Hurricane Ida, this recent article from The Advocate outlines that because some of Louisiana’s state parks had received monumental damages from the Fall 2021 storm, they are being altered in their rebuilding.

One such state park is Tickfaw State Park, which is located in an isolated pocket of Livingston Parish and encompasses approximately 1,200 acres (most of which are undeveloped). It was reported that prior to August 29th, when Hurricane Ida made its historic landfall in Port Fourchon, Tickfaw State Park was so heavily set in an overarching shadow as a result of a tree canopy, that the sky was very rarely seen. Then the eyewall of Hurricane Idaknocked down an estimated 80% of the trees and buried them mostly in mud so that the 30-foot arm of a rescue excavator couldn’t reach them from the roads running through the swamp-filled state park.

Unfortunately, the damage observed at Tickfaw State Park is too similar to other parks in the state, which has caused the deputy assistant secretary at the Louisiana Office of State Parks, Clifford Melius, to wonder about both the longevity of these parks and the short-term solutions that may be possible. Melius commented saying, “This is going to be a major change to the ecosystem,” and he also wondered “do we repair the boardwalks when there’s no swamp to walk over?”

For decades, the Louisiana State Park system has been very regenerative, despite the annual state parks budget being regularly lowered in favor of Higher Education and Healthcare budgets receiving the attention whenever the state government faced annual deficits. According to the statistics acquired by The Advocate, “between the fiscal year 2008 and the fiscal year 2017, Louisiana reduced annual state general fund contributions by 34% from $29.7 million to $19.7 million.”

Despite this significant decrease in funding, recent years have shown that the Louisiana State Parks system has only grown in popularity. In fact, Louisiana’s 21 State Parks ended the 2021 Fiscal Year on June 30 with 1.5 million visitors, which is the highest number of recorded visitors in a Fiscal year- in recent memory. Additionally, 11 of the total 21 parks made a profit, which is quite the achievement when compared to the system’s owing of $1.5 million on June 30.

After Hurricane Ida, seven State Parks had to close because of severe damages they received, and thorough assessments are still being conducted by park officials, who estimate approximately $4 million in damages. This figure is determined to be roughly one-third of the parks departments’ funds dedicated to repairing and improving facilities.

Melius stated that he would like to see the parks reopened as quickly as possible, which might mean that he and his office will be “short-circuiting the long ponderous path of paperwork and congressional approvals that delays recovery for months.”

For instance, the state park in Fontainebleau, which is located near Mandeville, has sustained damages to their air conditioning facility, which would normally result in a bidding process to hire contractors. Instead, Melius took action and sent in his own staff to replace the air conditioning unit and reopen the park in just two-day at a cost of just $2,500 rather than the $10,000 cost and several weeks of delay that an “out of house team” would have called for.

Melius had said, “in-house saved us money and we didn’t have to wait on contractors to come in and do it,” because otherwise “during all that time I have to keep the park closed because I can’t air condition the buildings.” This improvement to how we assess and process the damages occurring in our state parks is just one way in which theLouisiana State Parks Department is reinvigorating its park system in the rebuilding stage.

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Louisiana Parks Worth Making a Visit To

When people think of Louisiana, they don’t often think of the 20 state parks, the state forest, or the wildlife refuge-but they should. The parks, forests, and refuges in the state call themselves home to native species. They preserve a part of the area that would otherwise be forgotten and creates a safe haven for these things to exist. Below are the best parks and forests to visit to experience the part of Louisiana often forgotten.

Kisatchie National Forest

 Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest in Louisiana. With its headquarters located in Pineville, the forest has over 40 recreational areas and over 100 miles for hiking. Visitors also find themselves picnicking, camping, hunting, horseback riding, or boating.

The forest is also home to two predominant roadless areas. Cunningham Brake and Saline Bayou are both areas designated to protect species native to the area. Cunningham Brake is a large wamp that protects flows into Kisatchie Bayou. Saline Bayou contains various forest types, each having different habitats. These areas were not given roads, as roads can damage forests, prairies, streams, and wetlands. They also do harm to native amphibians and reptiles that migrate to vernal pools.

Kisatchie National Forest lies throughout seven different parishes: Grant, Natchitoches, Winn, Rapides, Vernon, Claiborne, and Webster.

Grand Isle State Park

Grand Isle State Park is located right off the coast of Louisiana. The waters from the Gulf of Mexico created the beach. Grand Isle is the breakwater between the Gulf of Mexico and the channels that connect to the bayou tributaries of the Mississippi River. Lots of visitors come to the waters for fishing, swimming, or crabbing. Every July, many visit the beach for the Tarpon Rodeo, a fishing competition. The terrain also offers hiking or sunning for those looking for alternatives to water activities.

Over 280 species of fish call the Grand Isle State Park home. This is also an amazing place to see the Louisiana state bird- the Brown Pelican. For those looking for something a little different, there is a two-and-a-half mile nature trail in the park.

South Toledo Bend State Park

South Toledo Bend State Park is snugly located in the village of Anacoco, Louisiana. The park is located on several bluffs over and into the Toledo Bend Reservoir. For 2015 and 2016, Toledo Bend Reservoir was the nation’s number one bass fishing lake. In addition to bass fishing, visitors also enjoy hiking, cycling, and camping.

Housed in South Toledo Bend State Park are nesting grounds for bald eagles, which have been spotted in the area. The eagles feed from the endless supply of freshwater fish in the Reservoir. The park’s visitor center has an observation deck with a view of the reservoir lake and the islands nearby. Around the center is also a 3,000-foot surface nature trail.

South Toledo Bend is located six miles south of the former Hodges Gardens State Park, which closed in 2018. It is also not far from Natchitoches, Louisiana, which is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.

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Louisiana State Park Stays

Louisiana’s wildlife gives its visitors and locals a great opportunity for adventure. However, in order to start that adventure you have to find a place to stay. Look no further than Louisiana’s own state parks. Usually around $3 dollars per person to enter, Louisiana State parks are more than just parks. They are an outlet for adventure.

Many of the cabins are large enough to sleep six to eight people; lower prices ranging from $120-$175 make these cabins a great option for families who want a little get away. Or just for those looking to experience Louisiana’s wildlife in a different way. Check out the different amenities for the different parks, some even offer wifi!

Check out the reservation website for Louisiana State Parks to book your trip.

We are here to give you some more details about a few of the options from Louisiana Travel’s list of Louisiana State parks that offer cabins.

Chicot, Ville Platte

In 1939, Chicot was added to the Louisiana State Park system. Three boathouses, boat rental facilities, and a boathouse. Fishing is highly encouraged due to the waters being filled with red-ear sunfish, largemouth bass and more. There are also trails that fill the park, one trail being 22 miles long.

There are multiple different landings that include different areas. The East includes a barbecue pavillon and a meeting room. The South includes a water playground, picnic areas, and cabins. The north includes a primitive group camping area, campsites, and lodges.

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Cypremort Point, Cypremort Point

Coming from the term “dead cypress”, Cypremort Point is located on Vermilion Bay and is a 185-acre park. It contains half a mile of beach that was man made. There are 6 cabins that are available to rent. Wildlife wont be hard to find due to the location of the park.

There is a 100 foot fishing pier that is available for guests to use. The boat launch is literally only a few miles off from the Gulf of Mexico. Redfish and flounder are common catches in the area. The beach also includes picnic sites which means pack your lunch and spend the day!

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North Toledo Bend, Zwolle

Located in the town of Zwolle, the North Toledo Bend State Park is one of the two state parks that can be found on the Toledo Bend Reservoir. This reservoir is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the country. Paddle Boats and canoes can be rented at boat launch; feel free to bring your own! The park includes 67 campsites and 10 cabins. Two trails can also be found, one being 1.5 miles and the other being 4 miles.

The park also includes a visitors center that houses an olympic size swimming pool. There is also a group camp that is available. This included a full size cafeteria kitchen, serving line, and cooking implements. This group camp also has 5 dorms and it can sleep 50 people in each bunk.

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