Lt. governor proposes public-private partnerships that could impact French Quarter, state parks

MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - A new foundation, created by the state legislature, is about to explore the idea of setting up public-private partnerships for state parks and commemorative areas.

It might even look at putting the French Quarter under the state park system.

Fontainebleau State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Louisiana and it includes hundreds of acres which some believe could be better utilized.

"The trees were beautiful, a really nice park," said Anne Malteis from Quebec.

A group of Canadian cyclists came to Louisiana to enjoy Fountainbleau, which may be about to see big changes.

"I will be meeting Monday with some potential investors, and Pat Brister and people with Fontainebleau," said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

Under an act approved in Baton Rouge last year, the state has set up a seven-member foundation appointed by the lieutenant governor. It will be looking at public-private partnerships that could consider things like a resort built on 500 acres in the eastern portion of  Fontainebleau State Park on Lake Pontchartrain.

"They did one resort in West Virginia that brought in $50 million," said Nungesser.

The foundation will consider similar partnerships at 23 state parks, and 17 historical sites, like Poverty Point in the northeastern corner of the state.

"We need a wow factor," said the lieutenant governor.  He said the state is missing out on some big opportunities. He said things like zip lines, resorts, sponsorships and horseback rentals could help a state park system that struggles with chronic deficits.

"World Heritage Center, sponsored by Century Link, they can promote their business, and help Louisiana," said Nungesser.

Some worry though.

"It would be sad. We come in the state because of that," said Malteis.

"What's wrong is it's taking state lands that belong to the people," said Margie Vicknair-Pray with the Sierra Club.

But some say there is room for both.

"There's tons of acreage for both things to happen, we can save the lands and enjoy it at the same time, it comes out of social responsibility," said Allie Dyer of Mandeville.

"We are developing everything, we need to leave some area that's untouched," said Vicknair-Pray.

Change may also be coming to the French Quarter. Nungesser said the new foundation might explore placing the Quarter under the state park system and develop new public-private partnerships to help preserve it.

"We have got to make the French Quarter the best it could be. The streets need to be perfect, the lighting," said Nungesser.

The lieutenant governor says whatever is done, will be done responsibly with local input.

"We want everyone on the same page," said Nungesser.

City spokesman Tyronne Walker issued this response to the state park takeover proposal Friday afternoon:

"The French Quarter is one of New Orleans' historic neighborhoods and we fully anticipate that it will remain that way for the city's next 300 years."

Act 190, which could clear the way for public-private partnerships was signed into law by Governor Edwards last year.

The new foundation holds its first meeting next week.