SINGING IN TUNICA
Tunica-Biloxi Development & Programming Director John Barbry (far left, with drum) and (far right) Legend Keepers Donna Pierite (white dress) and Elisabeth Pierite-Mora lead a tribal youth choir of (from left, back) Lydia, Sidney and Madison Barbry, all of Marksville (front) and Joseph and Carolina McInturff-Barbre, of Hessmer, in traditional songs in the Tunica language during Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s visit to the tribe’s Tamahka Trails Golf Club on May 10. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser addresses a crowd of political, business and tribal officials about the importance of developing private/public partnerships in state parks and historic sites. Nungesser stopped at the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe's Tamahka Trails Golf Club on May 10 as part of his statewide promotion of National Tourism Week.{Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Lt. Gov. touts new ideas to reopen local parks

Nungesser promotes partnerships & foundation

Public/private partnerships in state parks is a major untapped resource that offers a promise to reopen Marksville’ s state parks and raise funds for the financially strapped state tourism office, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said during a National Tourism Week stop in Marksville on May 10.

Nungesser said the state has already implemented such partnerships in a few state parks and is working on others. He said a Tourism Foundation will be established in which the proceeds from such endeavors will be deposited and can only be used to support the state’s culture, recreation and tourism efforts.

Nungesser was asked a few times by guests and guest speakers about the future of the prehistoric Indian park and museum, which is only open one day a week, and the undeveloped Civil War park at Fort DeRussy.

Nungesser said the partnership program and Tourism Foundation will benefit all state parks, museums, historic sites and recreation areas -- not just those with an active partnership that is contributing to the foundation fund.

“What I hope will happen is that the foundation will generate enough money that we will be able to open up everything 100 percent,” he said.

Nungesser said this area should look for possible business partners willing to locate in one of the state historic sites or recreation areas.

“It will take people caring enough to roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done,” Nungesser said. “Avoyelles has too many rich assets here not to work hard to make the most of them.”

Nungesser told the a group of tourism, business, elected and Tunica-Biloxi tribal officials at the Tamahka Trails Golf Club, that the partnerships “will not compete with local businesses.”

For example, if a community on a river has a business that sells or rents canoes, the state would not allow another operator to rent canoes in a state park in that community. However, if the local canoe rental business wanted to rent canoes in the state park -- or if there were not a canoe rental business in that area -- “we would certainly welcome them.”

He said the most recent partnership is of a man who decided to sell horse rides in a state park.

“It didn’t cost the state a penny, and we get $3 every time somebody rides one of those horses,” he said.

Nungesser said tourism is still the state’s best return on investment.

He said 46.7 million visitors came to Louisiana this past year, spending $16.8 billion and paying over $1 billion in taxes to state and local governments.

“That’s a 40-to-1 return on investment,” he noted.

Nungesser said one tourism initiative is to “take the food, fun and festivities of Louisiana and wrap those around the abundant outdoor events in the state.”

He asked those in attendance to sign up to be “ambassadors” of the state by submitting descriptions and photos of local tourist attractions and events.

Nungesser said one of the state’s best resources in attracting tourists is its people.

“We treat people like they’re family,” he said. “We treat them like they’re special. Don’t quit doing what you’re doing.”

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