MANDEVILLE, La. -- One by one, as Fontainebleau State Park visitors pulled up to its gates Thursday, they were turned away.
For the Copeland family, disappointment was an understatement.
"Kind of the bottom of my heart dropped out for these guys," said Claudia Copeland, mom of two boys from the Marigny.
"We were pretty discontented to hear that, we were just like 'oh no,'" said one son, Darius.
"We were about to cry," said the other son, Diego.
Today, through the weekend, the closure is to the park's Day Area only, which includes the fields, benches, pavilions, splash park and beach. The reason -- a busted sewer line that, while shut off for repairs as of Tuesday, has led to the closure of the Day Area bathrooms, RV Area dump stations and many water supply lines. Park leaders say the closure is so staff can monitor and control the sewage flow and pump as needed.
But that's not the story Maxine Sumpter, from East Texas, got when she drove up to check in for her five-day, RV camp reservation on Wednesday.
"We got there for Noon and they told us it was closed," she recounted, "Everybody behind us they told it was closed indefinitely. (They) didn't know when the sewer line was going to be repaired and people were streaming out like a parade of cars."
Sumpter says there was no call alerting her to the issue ahead of arrival and there was no notice on the state's websites or social media accounts.
"It's been extremely upsetting and I think there's a huge lack of communication," she said.
Despite Sumpter's experience, the state says the park has taken several steps ensure that overnight use is available and reservations are honored. Those steps include bringing in a vacuum truck, or "honey wagon," to remove wastewater from the park.
Park employees are also finding ways to make accommodations for other uses, including the Copeland's planned tent camping trip. We also witnessed numerous RV's streaming through the park gates Thursday afternoon, with a list of restrictions in hand.
But for Sumpter, while she's relieved that Reunion Lake in Robert saved her retirement celebration trip, she says the vacation that should have been won't be easily forgotten.
Again, the state says the Day Area closure is in place until at least Monday. Park managers are considering bringing in portable restroom facilities if the situation develops into a long-term issue.
The park's sewer line problem has actually been determined to be the source of concerning water quality reports near Mandeville's new beach.
Mayor Donald Villere said when the city began testing and researching the water issue late last week, it was able to trace the recent high fecal counts in and around Bayou Castine to a pipe from the park, which was connected to the city's lift station on Jackson Avenue. The beach is at the corner of Jackson and Lakeshore Drive.
The mayor says water sampling will continue until the line is fixed and bacteria levels return to normal.
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