Published: July 2013 BoatU.S. Magazine
© 2013 Troy Gilbert
The Mississippi Coast is clearly turning their gaze towards the water for economic development. Three massive public marinas are either complete or under construction and all told will bring nearly 1,000 new slips online. Financed primarily using Federal Community Development Block Grants awarded to the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the total investment is nearly $94M into recreational boating.
Already complete, the 319 slip Gulfport Small Craft Harbor located on the Mississippi Sound is a full reconstruction of the City of Gulfport’s recreational marina which was lost in the storm of 2005. This past Spring, the harbor and its large outdoor pavilion were host to the Gulf Coast Yacht and Boat Show and thousands of attendees walked the piers amongst the towering utility stations that rise 30′ above sea level. Harbor Master, George Manemann explains, “We received hazard mitigation grants that allowed us to place the electrical equipment, utilities, the most expensive items to replace above the height of a potential storm surge that has a 1 in 100 chance of striking us every year.” With approximately 137 slips already under contract and capable of servicing yachts up to 140′ and located just blocks from the town’s bustling downtown, beaches, casino and the Gulfport Yacht Club, the harbor and her adjacent park are clearly refocusing Gulfport in a more maritime direction.
The surprisingly attractive 30′ utility towers will not be alone to Gulfport. Down the coast in Bay St. Louis, a quaint arts community on a bluff overlooking her namesake bay, the city’s first public marina is under construction and here to the 30′ structures will rise. The new 163 slip Municipal Harbor is adjacent to the town’s main street and restaurant row. At a cost of $21M and capable of servicing vessels up to 60′ in length, Bay St. Louis is appealing more towards the transient market as well as boat owners in nearby New Orleans, many of whom have second homes on this part of the coast.
Across the bay in Pass Christian, but located directly on the Mississippi Sound and close to the country’s second largest oyster reef, this 50/50 commercial/recreational harbor is doubling in size with the addition of 400 state of the art slips and piers. At a cost of $33M, it is also the most expensive of the new marinas. Home to the Pass Christian Yacht Club which traces its roots back to 1849, as well as the return of over-the-water restaurants, this public marina is already near capacity and the expansion is most welcome by a town still recovering from Katrina.
With existing public marinas rebuilt in Long Beach, Ocean Springs and Biloxi and the addition of a new private marina in Biloxi, the Mississippi Coast with her white sand beaches, casinos and the barrier islands that make up the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Mississippi coast is building the infrastructure now to become a world class cruising and fishing destination.
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