Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Robert has filed for bankruptcy protection nearly three years after severe flooding damaged the franchised campground and under threat of foreclosure by its lender.
The campground, which sits near the Tangipahoa River about an hour's drive east of Baton Rouge and north of New Orleans, flooded twice in 2016, in March and August. It sustained about $1 million in damage to its cabins and property, according to the company's Better Business Bureau profile. The property had 84 cabins and more than 300 RV sites but after the flooding only rebuilt 72 cabins.
Campground franchise owners Maurice LeBlanc and Myra LeBlanc wrote on the company's Facebook page on July 3 that the company "has worked diligently to repair flood damages sustained and to restore normal campground operations" but a lender to the business "demanded payment in full" during its slow season this past winter.
The campground is still popular and money has been coming in but "the bank is being unreasonable," Maurice LeBlanc said in an interview. "They are trying to motivate me to find a loan somewhere else," he said.
The company expects to restructure the business "as expeditiously as possible and is committed to pursuing a plan of reorganization in the very near future as it continues to operate the campground," he said.
The park has been operated by the family since the 1970s.
The campground co-owner said the business is his only retirement plan since he's put all his savings and even cashed in IRAs to pay for some of the repairs after the flooding.
The campground's July 3 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which protects it from creditors while it's in reorganization, says Apex Bank demanded payment several months ago on two loans Apex acquired from the failed First NBC Bank in New Orleans through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. One was $2.37 million and the other $175,000 loan.
The first loan was taken out in 2012 and the second in 2014. The campground was appraised to be worth $4.6 million at the time. The company took out a third loan in 2012 through the U.S. Small Business Administration with a principal amount of $41,900 but had paid it down to about $14,000 at the time of the bankruptcy filing.
In January 2017, the campground took out a $944,000 SBA loan through its disaster relief program, according to bankruptcy documents.
In April 2017, First NBC Bank was closed by the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions and deposits were transferred to Hancock Whitney, but the Mississippi bank didn't acquire all the loans. Rather Apex Bank bought the campground's loan.
"I love what I'm doing, I just need to get through this financial problem," Maurice LeBlanc said. "I've rented every cabin I have and have six swimming pools full of people. There is a lot of demand (for campgrounds); there's been a couple of new campgrounds opening in the past few years."
The company expects to continue paying employees, honor existing memberships to the campground and pay all its vendors and suppliers. The company estimated that it has fewer than 50 creditors and less than $10 million in both assets and liabilities.
Among the largest corporate debts are $19,076 to Leisure Systems Inc. for franchise fees and $10,831 owed to Entergy for electricity.