MANDEVILLE, La. (WVUE) - Plans for development in Fontainebleau State Park move forward after a feasibility study on the plans was released Tuesday (June 11). However, some conservationists aren’t happy about the proposal.
Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser said he supports a proposal for a hotel and conference center around the park.
"The tourism folks in St. Tammany did a feasibility study to see if there was a need for a conference in or around that area and it came back very positive," Nungesser said.
Nungesser said the development would bring in revenue for state parks.
"It's an opportunity for us to remove the burden of these state parks heavily off of the taxpayers of Louisiana. We've received cuts over the last ten years," Nungesser said.
However, conservationists like Margie Vicknair-Pray, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club, said they are worried about the impact it would have on animals in the park.
“They need some distance to be able to get away from people," Vicknair-Pray said. “A lot of animals don’t like coming near people sometimes, but there are other animals that don’t like to be around people at all. And they won’t stay here or thrive here if there’s a hotel over there, and a road here, and a picnic area here.”
Nungesser said the development will not change the integrity or ambiance of the park.
“It’s important that anything that’s done there is done within the contents to keep the quietness, the appearance," he said. “You don’t want a high-rise or some cement block building, you want to make sure it’s built in a rustic state.”
Other concerns include sewage runoff into Lake Pontchartrain.
“The lake is closed to swimming because of bacterial counts, and that’s from sewage, and [the development is] going to add a lot more sewage coming into the area that’s going to have to be processed and kept out of the lake hopefully,” Vicknair-Pray said.
Nungesser said they’re still in the early stages, but Vicknair-Pray said members of the Sierra Club say they want transparency.
“Preserving this chunk of St. Tammany right now while it’s still here, is very important. And, it’s important to the future, to children. It’s the closest beautiful state park to New Orleans,” Vicknair-Pray said.
Nungesser said the next step is a bidding process for investors.