Bobby Weaver believes his new walkway will make it easier for Grand Casino guests to get to the beach. And that will remove a liability cloud hanging over the county. In Weaver's opinion, liability takes precedence over past decisions.
Right now, Grand Casino Gulfport guests use a small cut in a fence to get out to the beach. Weaver thinks that's a dangerous way for visitors to enjoy a public amenity.
"We just feel like it's a liability issue," the sand beach director said.
So, he ordered his staff to construct a boardwalk from the casino to the Preservation Oaks parking lot, and to the beach.
"It's an item that is going to allow people access to the beach safely," he said.
In 1997, Harrison County built a similar boardwalk over the sand that connected the same areas. But it got ripped up when supervisors decided public property shouldn't be used for private gain.
A new taxpayer funded walkway is now under construction, in virtually the same place.
"I don't deem this as benefiting a private business," Weaver said. "This is a public park, a public beach and people are able to come and go to the beach. And we just want to make sure we provide as easy and safe access for those individuals trying to come out and enjoy the beach."
Harrison County originally built Preservation Oaks so families could park close to the beach.
Jim Millett had his wife and daughter with him as they splashed along the shoreline. The Milletts' appreciated the parking convenience.
"We're leaving. We just wanted tos ee the beach with the baby for a minute," Millett said.
A beach parking only sign is in the lot. But you'll often see casino guests carrying luggage to their cars. As soon as Shella Barnes parked her car, the casino guest was asked if she knew Preservation Oaks was for beach visitors.
"No," she admitted. "I've been parking back here ever since they've been here."
Bobby Weaver said it doesn't matter who uses the parking lot. The area needs a new boardwalk.
"There are a lot of people that stay at this hotel that want to come to the beach," said Weaver. "When you take a look at how do they access the beach from the hotel, it isn't really safe."
Harrison County Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius remembers the decision six years ago to remove the boardwalk. Because of the safety concerns, he supported the sand beach department's decision to rebuild it.