During the knee jerk reaction to Covid-19 Chicot State Park was set up as an isolation and quarantine overflow site. Per usual, no expense is spared when it is on the taxpayers dime. The trouble is not just the spending. Louisiana also deals with a lack of transparency and little knowledge about how much is spent and on what.
In March 2020 Chicot was one of the state parks that were shut down and used as a covid site. This decision was made by state, not local, officials. Chicot was used for those not needing to be hospitalized but unable to go home.
Media says Chicot is fully open
Most news reports say Chicot State Park reopened fully in June 2020. The Office of State Park’s June 11, 2020 press release says the park was set to reopen on June 26, 2020. However, this is not fully true. There is an alert on the website that states:
“Chicot State Park – Lake Chicot Loop Trail is CLOSED
Chicot State Park is housing some COVID-19 patients who are recovering safely in isolation on the Northside of the park. Since the Lake Chicot Loop Trail goes through the North and the backside of the campground, all but 2-miles of that trail remain closed. It also means that only 1 backpacking site is open (#2). Here’s a summary of our hiking trails and their status:
Lake Chicot Loop Trail 20 miles – only 2-miles of this trail are open
Arboretum Trail 5.5 miles – open
Kid’s Trail – open”
On March 20, 2021 Representative Rhonda Butler shared a message from the governor’s office:
“We will be scaling back at Chicot next month, but the covid site will not be closed as of now. Right now it is a month to month evaluation until North side of park is open.”
In the comments an Evangeline Parish Tourism employee stated that Brad Farmer, AAHSD Executive Director said Chicot State Park is planning to provide services for covid for April. She also explained that they may not need it.
Does Louisiana need an overflow site at this point in the game?
As of March 29, 2021 about 467 isolation/quarantine patients have been discharged from Chicot State park. There were just 4 on site. No hospitals in Louisiana are at capacity. Evangeline parish has 40 beds available.
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser stated that Chicot State Park is one of Louisiana’s more beautiful parks. However, there are complaints that the side that is open does not receive the same level of upkeep as the north side. Tax payers are funding a covid site at a park but utilizing neither. This leaves taxpayers asking how much is being spent on this covid site. Taxpayers also need to know if money is being lost by the north side not being open to the public.
So, what do the numbers look like?
The director said she could not give out the number of beds at this facility. None of the requested information would violate health privacy laws. Still she insisted she could not discuss. When asked if information such as the total number of beds at this facility and average number of beds used could be found in a public records request she would only repeat that she can not give out any information. This leaves taxpayers, once again, not able to get the information they need to know how tax dollars are being spent.
Any time tax dollars are spent, records must be easily accessible. Taxpayers should not have to search numerous websites and piece this information together. Either there is incompetence in the records keeping or they do not want people to have that information. Either way, this is unacceptable.