Palmetto State Park to open

ABBEVILLE — A new $13 million state park in Vermilion Parish that was conceived of 38 years ago finally will open its doors Oct. 28.

In June, it appeared the park might remain shuttered as the governor's budget contained no money to hire employees and operate the park.

By implementing a voluntary hiring freeze and shuffling priorities, Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle said the state cobbled together $400,000 to open Palmetto Island State Park for three months.

Now it's up to business, residents and other concerned citizens to put up private dollars as a match.

"I'm very, very confident the park will remain open for the foreseeable future" with the help of private donations, Angelle said following a news conference at the park Thursday.

Vermilion Parish resident John T. Landry, appointed to the State Parks Commission in 1972, proposed the idea for Palmetto Island State Park just south of Abbeville 38 years ago.

Construction began in 2003, but there were setbacks, including damage from hurricanes Rita, Gustav and Ike.

Construction was completed this summer. When state money to open the park dried up, Landry approached the Community Foundation of Acadiana about creating a fund where individuals and businesses could make tax-deductible donations to be used strictly for the park.

Landry donated his personal money to create the Palmetto Island State Park Fund, which others are being asked to add to, Raymond Hebert, executive director of the Community Foundation, said.

Public-private partnerships such as this are even more important during these difficult economic times, Hebert said.

During the next month or so, Angelle said he and some Acadiana legislators will be spreading the word, seeking donations and corporate sponsors. They're even considering awarding naming rights to buildings in the park for large donations, he said.

Vermilion Parish and state officials and residents are hoping Palmetto Island State Park draws visitors from across the nation.

"We can use this asset to re-introduce the Sportsman's Paradise to America" and show the rest of the country that every square inch of Louisiana is not covered with oil from the BP blowout, Angelle said.

The park offers six two-bedroom cabins, 95 RV campground spots, picnic pavilions, three lakes with a canoe trail, a boat launch, a canoe launch, a floating pier, a water playground and a concession stand.