State park upgrade

Nungesser outlines plans for Sam Houston Jones site

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><strong>‘This will be the jewel of the park system in the state of Louisiana.’</strong></p> <p>Sen. Ronnie Johns</p> <p>R-Sulphur</p>” id=”80e37022-e8a5-4889-8f4f-462c8aac9bcc” style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent”}}

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<div class="float"><div class="Lead"><p><strong>‘There is no reason why this park can’t be the premiere park of our whole system.’</strong><br />Gene Reynolds<br />Assistant secretary of state parks</p></div></div>” id=”9d008e5c-b3ce-4e2c-b833-159c044c5ffd” style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent”}}

MOSS BLUFF — Millions in coastal recreational project funding from a settlement tied to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill as well as public-private partnership money have been designated for improvements to Sam Houston Jones State Park.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who made the announcement Wednesday, said the park has a “lot of land and a lot of opportunities” and “we’re going to make sure we take our time to make the park the best it can be.”

Nungesser said projects already planned are $1.9 million for 10 new deluxe cabins, rebuilding and renovating bathrooms and pavilion upgrades that will include air conditioning. The state will also add more playgrounds.

“This park and all the opportunities — not only because of the funding that the governor has committed to state parks and recreation and the BP funding but also through our new private-public partnerships — the sky is the limit,” he said.

In addition to facility upgrades, potential other projects include rock climbing, horseback riding, canoe rentals, zip lines, a restaurant, concession stand and park store and lodging expansions.

“You are going to decide what those projects are going to be, whether it be a lazy river, a water pad, a petting zoo, whatever it is, the community will get to decide,” Nungesser said.

Cliff Melius, director of operations and facilities for the state parks system, said public-private partnerships will also allow for the creation of a conference and nature center and a three-mile-long ADA-compliant walking trail that will tie into the amphitheatre.

He said he sees the park as eventually becoming a revenue-generator rather than relying on taxpayer money.

The 1,087-acre park has had 80,817 visitors so far this year, and park officials expect that number to keep increasing.

“There’s no reason why this park can’t be the premiere park of our whole system,” said Gene Reynolds, assistant secretary of state parks.

Reynolds said among the improvements being made at the park is the Longleaf Legacy Project, a coastal conservancy restoration initiative sponsored by Sasol.

Kim Cusimano, Sasol’s government and public affairs manager, said the project is dedicated to the heritage, restoration and rebirth of the longleaf forest within the park.

“Longleaf pines were at one time the most historic and prevalent species of trees across the United States,” she said. “There were 90 million acres of longleafs stretching from Virginia to Texas. Today, there are only about 4 million and 70 acres of that is right here in Sam Houston Jones State Park.”

Cusimano said about 70 percent of the restoration project is complete.

“This will be the jewel of the park system in the state of Louisiana,” said state Sen. Ronnie Johns, RSulphur.

State Rep. Stephen Dwight, RMoss Bluff, said the park is special to his family.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve tent camped over here, my grandma would bring her RV and I would stay with her, I’ve roasted marshmallows out here, and now I bring my kids by boat on Sundays to play on the playground.”

He said the park is in good hands under Reynolds’ oversight and vision.


‘This will be the jewel of the park system in the state of Louisiana.’

Sen. Ronnie Johns


‘There is no reason why this park can’t be the premiere park of our whole system.’
Gene Reynolds
Assistant secretary of state parks