The 12 two-bedroom cabins perched next to Lake Pontchartrain near Mandeville were Fontainebleau State Park’s biggest draw and the most profitable asset in the entire state park system until Hurricane Isaac swamped them in 2012.
Now, after spending three years out of commission, the cabins are about to reopen following a $1.5 million renovation paid for with insurance money.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Wednesday that the park will start taking reservations again beginning at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 17; the first available date is Aug. 18.
Park officials expect high demand based on how often people call to ask about the cabins. Before the storm, they were typically booked as much as a year in advance. The year before Hurricane Isaac, they were reserved for a total of more than 3,500 nights, according to Dardenne’s office.
The cabins, which sleep eight, are a money-maker for the park, accounting for half of the $100,000 that Fontainebleau pulls in annually, Dardenne said. That’s $50,000 the park hasn’t been getting for the past three years.
Fontainebleau is in the top five for attendance among state parks, Dardenne said, and with the reopening of the cabins, he predicted that it will become No. 1.
Dardenne has blamed the slow pace of the work on the Jindal administration’s use of a state park repair fund to pay for daily park operating costs, a contention that Jacques Berry, communications director for Dardenne’s office, repeated on Wednesday.
Fontainebleau saw significant damage during Hurricane Isaac, which brought more flooding to the 2,800-acre park than Hurricane Katrina and caused significant tree damage from winds as well, Berry said.
The cabins first opened in 2008, and the renovation work remains mostly true to the original. While there are three different floor plans, each cabin has two bedrooms and one bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen, dining and living areas and a flat-screen television.
One of the bedrooms has two sets of bunk beds and the other has a queen-sized bed. The living rooms also have a foldout queen-sized bed.
Vaughn Sollberger, of KVS Architects, said the refurbished units are designed to be more resistant to flooding. There is no more carpet, and the siding is now secured to the outside with 31/2-inch roofing nails. The utilities running to the cabins have also been given extra protection.
Some design differences are cosmetic. The outsides of the cabins are brighter colors, and inside the walls have a different color scheme.
But the appeal of the cabins is unchanged: access to the water, boardwalks where guests can watch the waves or throw in a fishing line, and screened porches that provide a cool place to view the blue expanse.
“It’s not your grandmother’s campsite,” said Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere.
The cabins cost $150 per night during the summer and $120 per night during the off-season. A two-night minimum is required for weekends, and there is a 15-day maximum. The cabins can be reserved online at ReserveLaStateParks.com.
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