Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Tuesday that state parks and a historic fort sustained $7.4 million in damage during Hurricane Isaac.
The Category 1 storm, which made landfall in late August, downed trees, killed grass, flooded cabins, knocked out power and deposited 4 feet of marsh grass and mud inside a pre-Civil War fort.
For the indeterminable future, campers will be kept off the beach at Grand Isle State Park. Canoes will not glide on the water at Tickfaw State Park in Springfield. Military buffs will not be able to visit the fortification at Fort Pike State Historic Site in New Orleans.
“We’ve obviously got some significant damage,” Dardenne said.
The most expensive damage was at Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville and Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton.
Fontainebleau, which boasts campsites, nature trails, plantation ruins and towering oaks on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained $2.5 million in damage, mostly from a storm surge that drenched cabins.
At Bogue Chitto, $1.6 million in repairs is needed to remedy erosion problems, bathroom flooding and debris at a park with miles of equestrian trails.
Dardenne said he expected the damage at Fontainebleau to be as bad as it was.
“We knew even as the storm was developing that these were going to be our problem spots because of all the water,” he said of Fontainebleau and nearby Fairview-Riverside State Park in Madisonville.
Weeks after the slow-moving Isaac soaked the state, parts of Fairview-Riverside still are without power. At Fontainebleau, cabins are expected to remain closed for at least six months to allow them to be gutted.
State Rep. Tim Burns said he is not surprised that Fontainebleau bore the brunt of the storm since 140 homes in old Mandeville flooded.
Burns, R-Mandeville, said Fontainebleau is a popular spot for locals, including his wife, who uses the park as a backdrop in her wedding photography business.
He said Fontainebleau and Fairview-Riverside, both of which will be closed for months, will recover. “They took it on the chin for Katrina and came back well,” Burns said.
Other areas already are back in business.
At Grand Isle, the campground is open although beach camping is forbidden until debris is cleared. Port Hudson State Historic Site is accepting visitors while park staff work to repair the hiking trail. The campground at St. Bernard State Park along the Mississippi River in Braithwaite is open although the day use area is not.
Some park areas are expected to open within weeks.
Crews are clearing downed trees at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego in order to reopen the campground. At Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, the bottomland campground is a few weeks away from opening while other areas of the park will require months of repairs.
Still other sites have a huge question mark hanging over their reopening dates.
Fort Pike, which was built between 1819 and 1826, has no projected date for reopening to visitors. The storm destroyed the manager’s residence and dumped several feet of marsh grass and mud inside the fort.
At Tickfaw, the park itself may open Thursday, but it is unclear when trees will be cleared to create a navigable path for canoes.
Dardenne said he is trying to determine how much of the $7.4 million in damage is covered by insurance. He said he can pay for minor repairs out of an existing fund.
Beyond that, he said, the state will look to the federal government to help with the cleanup bill.
Christina Stephens, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the federal government paid at least some of the expense for repairing state parks after previous storms.