Chiquita and Dole cargo trucks sit at the northern tip of the Port of Gulfport. Right behind the Chiquita lot is the Copa Casino. And just west of the trucks is a fleet of shrimp boats.
If the port is ever going to grow, port consultant Dick Woodman said the cargo activity must be separated from the casino and shrimping activity. "To think about increasing the success of the port leads us to believe it's just going to get more congested and less attractive," Woodman said.
The consultant represents JWD. The California company was hired in February to rework the Port of Gulfport's master plan.
Port Director Don Allee calls the master plan an important tool to keep Gulfport competitive. "It's really a roadmap. It's our roadmap," Allee said. "We're at a critical juncture now, because there are so many competitive issues facing this port."
The consultant used a computer generated map to show what JWD believes the Port of Gulfport could look like five years from now. The east and west piers would be expanded, so they could be used exclusively for cargo ships and their trucks. The areas near Highway 90 would be home to a cluster of casinos, cruise ships, and retail shops.
Twenty years down the road, the consultant's vision actually moves Highway 90 a bit north. Woodman said that would relieve congestion around the port. It would also open the downtown area to shops that could open along the port's northern tip. "We're much further into the historic area of Gulfport," Woodman said, as he described why the consultants recommended moving Highway 90. "This area can transition between the service facilities for the gaming and cruise to the commercial areas that would have an easier tie to the city, so that all could be developed together."
Over the next two months, JWD will finalize its master plan ideas. The finished product will be given to the Port of Gulfport in February. Don't forget, the last port master plan was done in 1996. Because of that project, the west pier was expanded, and new warehouses were built.