by Katelynn Mouton
There is an unspoken but well-known love story in Southwest Louisiana. It is a calling heard and felt deep in the bones and souls of the people who call this place home. From the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico coastline to the tranquil banks of the Calcasieu River running through Sam Houston Jones State Park and the marshes, prairies, bayous and lakes in between, it is not just the abundance of access to nature that calls, but more the versatility of the space.
Sam Houston Jones State Park has long been a favorite for a plethora of activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, biking, jogging and bird watching to name a few, but not even one of Mother Nature’s greatest assets could be spared the wrath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in the late summer and fall of 2020.
According to Laura Pursnell-Lindsay, Public Information Director for the Louisiana Office of State Parks, Hurricane Laura damaged or destroyed all of the buildings at the park and damaged or downed more than 80 percent of the trees.
“FEMA estimated clean-up would cost about $22 million,” said Pursnell-Lindsay. “Our travel team completed the work for $600,000 which covered materials, heavy equipment rentals and salaries.”
That love story mentioned above runs deeper than just use of the space. In January of this year, The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana (TNC) and CITGO donated and coordinated the planting of more than 5,000 longleaf pine trees and hundreds of volunteers were on hand to help plant them in February.
SASOL also provided $10,000 towards the purchase of containerized-magnolia trees. In total, nearly 20,000 trees have been planted in the park to help replace what was lost.
Other volunteer groups helped tackle a number of tasks in the park.
“A volunteer group of full-time RVers, A Year to Volunteer, stayed for several weeks in March to work on various projects at the park,” Pursnell-Lindsay said. “They built a 500-foot boardwalk along the river, built fences, tent platforms, refurbished the lagoon overlook, painted the entrance station, cleared trails and ground tree stumps.”
Other local groups have volunteered their time to help restore the park as well, including Entergy Louisiana, Southwest Louisiana Credit Union and Friends of Sam Houston Jones.
In addition to cleaning up and restoring the park, several new features have been added to make it even better than before.
Ten new luxury cabins, with granite countertops and screened-in porches complete with outdoor fireplaces and river views and a 31-site campground with new RV campsites, including full sewer and 50-amp electric hook-ups await overnight guests. A new trailhead restroom has been constructed.
“Tentrr also added 10 glamping sites at the park,” added Pursnell-Lindsay. “These sites also opened on July 1 with the rest of the overnight lodging sites.”
After a multi-year labor of love, the park reopened for daytime visitors on Memorial Day of this year and for overnight stays at the start of this month. A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
For more information about Sam Houston Jones State Park, including various rates and usage fees, visit www.LAStateParks.com or call 888-677-7264 or 337-855-2665.
The City of Lake Charles continues recovery work at Tuten Park. Phase 1 repairs to the front part of the park are nearing completion. Weather permitting, this area should be opened within the next six weeks.
The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury celebrated the completion on a new outdoor Fitness Court at Prien Lake Park. The Fitness Court is a 38-foot-by-38-foot, open-air wellness area that allows users to leverage their own body weight at different angles and at different levels of resistance to complete exercises at a total of seven stations. The entire series can be completed in seven minutes. Each exercise takes 45 seconds, with a 15-second break between sets. These “seven movements in seven minutes” combined burn more calories per minute than most other forms of exercise.