A New Beginning -The '70s

The early 1970s saw a major transformation in Louisiana State Parks. The system was primarily developed through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and early '40s. Between then and the early 1970s, the growth and development of the parks as a statewide system was fairly static.

Many of the areas in the system were small and inappropriate for state park status. Some units had simply been transferred from local governments to the state in order to avoid the operational cost and responsibility. Professional management was non-existent, since many of the staff and most park managers had been employed prior to the enactment of the classified service program. Political patronage was a way of business and each park operated independently of a strong central organization and common purpose. Most depended entirely upon the support of the local legislators to obtain funding for operation and development.

In 1972, before reorganization, the State Parks & Recreation Commission was a policy-making unit of state government. Newly appointed members of that Commission, working closely with an energetic new State Parks Director and enthusiastic staff, began to plan a course of action which was intended to make the Louisiana State Parks System one of the most dynamic and professionally operated units of state government. From then and throughout the 1970s and until the present, many of these changes have and are occurring.

One of the very first objectives of the Parks Commission, following the 1972 appointment, was to develop a unity of purpose, and a strong organization with specific goals and objectives; one which would have all of the individual park units and their staff pulling in the same direction. This was accomplished by developing a strong central administrative core with authority to develop and issue policy objectives. The State Parks & Recreation Commission, through the Director and administrative staff, provided this ingredient.

circa 1970s Louisiana State Parks logoIn order to develop the unity necessary to function as a cohesive unit, much attention was given to the agency personnel. Efforts were made to develop a team attitude, a sense of esprit de corps. These changes were subtle but effective. Management training seminars were initiated and all managers and administrative staff were en- listed. The National Park Service conducted several week-long seminars of "Management by Objective Techniques". An agency logo was adopted. One of the most dramatic and effective accomplishments was that of providing uniforms to all public contact personnel.

Park Wardens, who had never been trained in law enforcement but who carried weapons, made arrests, and had full law enforcement power, were enrolled in the Louisiana State Police Training Academy. Certification and law enforcement standards were developed, and now all State Park Wardens (park Rangers and Managers) are fully certified as graduates of a "Peace Officers Standards & Training Curriculum", conducted by the Louisiana State Police Training Academy. Requalification, training and recertification of all State Park Wardens are now conducted on an annual basis.

At the field level, four districts representing the four quadrants of the state were established. The existing parks were assigned to these districts based on their geographical location. Four of the most promising young professional managers were selected and promoted to the position of District Manager, having supervisory authority over all other unit managers in their respective districts. A Chief of Operations was selected from the field managers to act as the immediate supervisor of the four District Managers and to coordinate activities between the field operations and the administrative support function.

A classified position of Assistant Director was developed and established as the senior classified administrative position of the agency. This provided the stability required at a staff level to maintain the necessary continuity of program and development objectives over a long period of time. Prior to this, the Director -- serving at the pleasure of the Governor -- changed every time the Governor changed and there was no principal staff position below that level with the administrative leadership necessary to continue program goals once they had been established. As a result, the system was deplete with half accomplished development projects and programs which were cancelled before they really had an opportunity to mature. In other words, practically everything in the agency changed on a four-year cycle.

These organizational accomplishments in the early '70s were essential in order to implement a program of long-range planning and development that would transcend periodic political leadership changes in the state. This was a foundation for a professional rather than political oriented function of state government.

Comprehensive Long-Range Planning

By the 1970s, the need for a more orderly and definitive plan for a State Parks System had been recognized. Studies of Louisiana' s state parks and those of other states led to the inescapable conclusion that Louisiana lagged far behind in meeting its citizens' recreational needs.

In 1974 the State Parks & Recreation Commission completed a fifteen year Capital Outlay Master Plan for improving and expanding the Parks System. The purpose of this plan was to establish a clearly defined set of goals for both operation and expansion. A classification system was developed which served to identify areas according to a specific purpose. State Parks would serve to provide outdoor recreation opportunities in a natural setting. State Commemorative Areas would serve to protect and interpret significant aspects of our state's history. State Preservation Areas would be acquired and developed in such a way as to preserve and portray the significance of some of our most unique natural features and landscapes.

History reenactment at Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site.Given these specific types of needs and objectives, those properties that did not fit the classification system were disposed of, usually transferred to local units of governments to serve local historical or recreation needs. New areas were identified for inclusion into the system and cost estimates for both acquisition and development were established. Concurrently, costs for upgrading and improving the existing areas that met the classification standards were also considered.

This fifteen year capital improvement program was presented to the 1975 Louisiana Legislature and was adopted at a proposed cost of $118 million over a fifteen-year period.

The state's long-term bond authorization program was abolished several years later and the fifteen-year authorization became a year-to-year struggle for capital outlay funds needed to implement this program. Over $77 million has been invested in State Parks land acquisitions and improvements since 1975. The system has grown from a landholding of approximately 14,000 acres to almost 40,000, consisting of 50 individual holdings statewide.

Technical and Financial Assistance

Over the last 40 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $68 million in Louisiana through grants for the acquisition and/or development of outdoor recreation facilities. The Office of State Parks serves as a State liaison Office that administers the Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund Program. As such, funds are made available from the U. S. Department of the Interior on an annual basis. These have ranged I from one-half million to as much as $3 million annually. The State Parks & Recreation Commission, as a body, sets priorities for the allocation of these funds to other state agencies and local political subdivisions annually. This is done on a 50 -50 matching fund basis. Many small communities, which would not otherwise be in a position to afford outdoor recreation facilities, have benefited from this program. In addition to allocating funds, the Office of State Parks has the responsibility to continually monitor the facilities and programs, which have been funded to ensure that the funds and development are used strictly for the purpose intended-public outdoor recreation.

In 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal issued an Executive Order, transferring the Recreational Trails Program from the Governor's Office of Rural Affairs to the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. This program provides federal funding through the Federal Highway Administration for the purpose of development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses.


In 1977, a sweeping reorganization of state government occurred. The Office of State Parks was created within the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, one of 20 departments of state government. State Parks became one of five offices within that department, and this move strengthened the relationships between the State Parks System and other departmental agencies such as Tourism and Historic Preservation. The State Parks and Recreation Commission became an advisory body to the Secretary of the Department, an appointee of the governor and in whom all powers for operating the department were vested. An Assistant Secretary, also an appointee, oversaw the regular operations of the Office of State Parks. During the 1970s, 16 new sites were acquired, increasing state parks holdings more than 150 percent.