OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Environmental groups and government representatives gathered along Ft. Bayou Saturday morning to dedicate a new kayak and canoe trail.
The Old Ft. Bayou Blueway is a water trail that's designed to encourage local paddling sports, while also boosting tourism.
"And we welcome you to this very exciting day," said Judy Steckler with the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.
Dark clouds gathering over the bayou didn't deter the crowd on this dedication day. The Old Ft. Bayou Blueway is a waterway trail that's aimed at promoting paddling.
"Once Margaret Miller with the Chamber of Commerce said, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we had a way for our local people and our tourists to be able to enjoy all this great water that we have,'" said Steckler.
Several years of planning and partnerships resulted in the Ft. Bayou Blueway. The trail will encourage local kayaking and provide an opportunity for tourists to experience the beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"In time, the term blueway will be a very familiar term for our coast, for our families and for our visitors. In fact, as we celebrate today the opening of the Old Ft. Bayou Blueway, there are plans underway to designate even more in the area," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.
The blueway follows a public waterway and provides a unique opportunity to both exercise and enjoy the view from the bayou.
"Opens up this area for public use and public access, so that residents such as you and folks from other parts of the state can come down here and enjoy our natural, scenic beauty," said Ray Carter, with the Secretary of State's office.
Nearby Gulf Hills Resort is among the businesses likely to benefit from the blueway.
"It's a whole new market. It's new business. We're going after that eco-tourism. So, now you can kayak, you can canoe, you can do everything from Gulf Hills," Resort Manager Donna Brown said.
The dedication included an opening race among government representatives and VIPs. After starting strong, Mayor Connie Moran wound up in the water after her kayak tipped over. DEQ representative Daniel Stewart crossed the finish line first.
The Old Ft. Bayou Blueway begins behind Gulf Hills Resort. It then follows the meandering waterway all the way to The Shed"restaurant off Highway 57. There are signs posted along the way, marking the route.