Pictured is the front entrance of Chicot State Park as it looked Thursday, March 19, as a red CLOSED sign is posted. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
The lush green forests around the cypress lake of Chicot State Park will now be used as a regional staging area in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Unfortunately, we understand that this is going to impact our visitors with plans to visit Chicot State Park,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, whose office oversees Louisiana State Parks. “But I would like to repeat – the greater mission right now is to do everything possible to get this situation under control so we can all resume normal operations. This is one of our most beautiful parks, and we will thoroughly clean it before reopening for the enjoyment of our visitors. Louisianans have always come together in time of need and I’m sure we can get through this together.”
The release from the Office of State Parks stated, “Current visitors will be evacuated from the parks, and guests will be contacted by Louisiana State Parks reservations agents to transfer to another park or request a gift card or refund for the amount of their stay. All other Louisiana State Parks are open and operating normally for the enjoyment of the public.”
Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan “LeDay” Williams said the state will use the park as an overflow center and will set up a clinic inside.
In a statement to the Ville Platte Gazette, Evangeline Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Executive Director Erin Hoffpauir said, “We only have the information given to us by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office regarding the closure, but we do know Chicot State Park will be used to host people who do not require hospitalization but need to isolate and can not go home until they are cured and are no longer contagious to others, including their own family members or other residents in group housing arrangements.”
“It is critical that we take every precaution possible to prevent the virus from spreading so that we don’t put ourselves in a situation where we need overflow facilities. We recommend that everyone heed the warnings to maintain a social distance in public, stay at home if you do not have to be out, call your doctor and stay home if you don’t feel well, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and take all precautions seriously.”
“The impact of the park’s closure to our area will be no different than that of the closures and adjustments to all businesses here and throughout our state and country. We are fortunate enough to have a beautiful and peaceful facility so close to home for those who cannot recover in a hospital or their own homes. We’ve shown through many other disasters that we will pull through this challenging time together.”
As a result of the outbreak and the state’s decision, the annual Le Grand Hoorah scheduled for April 17 through April 24 has been cancelled. Look for more information on the cancellation in the Thursday, March 26, edition of The Gazette.