Editorial: Failing to repair, maintain and improve state parks foolish

State parks across Louisiana are falling into disrepair and the state official who oversees them blames Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who has become a

persistent critic of Jindal in recent years, says the state park system

has a backlog

of new and improvement projects totaling more than $20 million

because the governor and state lawmakers have been using the

fund designated for maintenance for park operations.

That list includes $250,000 to fix the garden fountain and irrigation system at Hodges Garden, north of Leesville, between

$1.2 million and $2 million to repair hurricane-damaged facilities at Fountainbleu State Park near Mandeville and $600,000

to fix the main water line at Grand Isle State Park.

Meanwhile, Sam Houston Jones State Park in Moss Bluff has been plagued by a choking invasion of salvinia in some of its ponds.

‘‘I’m frustrated and concerned,’’ Dardenne told The Advocate of Baton Rouge, adding that he hopes the maintenance issues don’t

lead to the closure of any of the state parks.

Traditionally, park admission fees and rentals for cabins and campsites have funded facilities’ improvements and maintenance.

But $34 million has been taken money from the fund by Jindal and legislators and used for park operations rather than repairs.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy

Nichols said $6 million has been allocated in this year’s capital outlay

budget for

park repairs. Dardenne has maintained the state Constitution makes

raids on the maintenance fund illegal. In their most recent

regular session, state lawmakers passed legislation that added

operations to what the repair fund could be utilized for.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, said that was a mistake and that the money should be used

for its original intent, money.

Louisiana residents are passionate

about the state park in their area. That was exemplified last month when

dozens of area

residents complained at a public hearing conducted by the state

Department of Transportation and Development about one proposal

that would take a highway expansion through a significant portion

of Sam Houston Jones State Park.

These parks offer state residents and tourists ample outdoor and recreational pursuits. Failing to properly repair, maintain

and improve them is, in a word, foolish.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.