What a relief: Permanent restrooms return to the beach

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Public transit customers and beach visitors have a brand new facility in Gulfport. CTA hosted a ribbon cutting celebration Tuesday for its new bus stop and comfort station. The $1.2 million fortress-like structure is now open at Jones Park.

Several speakers called the grand opening of the bus stop and comfort station, another post-Katrina milestone in the ongoing road to recovery along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"We are really proud to offer this facility to the community, to Gulfport. And we look forward to moving on.  This is another step in our recovery on the gulf coast," said CTA board chairman Gini Fellows.

The new comfort station and bus stop is both storm sturdy and architecturally impressive. This mostly concrete structure replaces the made-of-wood stations that washed away in Katrina.

"Let me tell you, we have got people here today on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that have courage. And that's why this building is standing here today," said Connie Rockco, president of the Harrison County board of supervisors.

CTA director, Kevin Coggin, says the new facility has some impressive benefits.

"User friendly layout, such as user friendly ground level space. That's something new on these and an advantage over the old ones, the useable space. They're storm survivable. They're low maintenance. Low operating cost. ADA accessible," he explained.

Picturesque on the outside, the restroom facilities are basic: stainless steel functional.

The sheer size of this elevated facility is what's most impressive. There is plenty of space to provide beach visitors shelter from a passing shower or bus riders a comfortable spot to await their trip.

"Every amenity that has been rebuilt since the storm, whether it's a hotel, whether it's a casino, a museum, whether it's about to be an aquarium, it's come back far superior to the one that we lost in Katrina," said Hancock Bank executive John Hairston.

Three more facilities like this one are scheduled to open in the next few weeks at Long Beach Harbor, Courthouse Road and the coast coliseum. There's also planning underway for a fifth comfort station at Rodenberg Avenue.

"We all wanted to build the coast back bigger and better. And this is Coast Transit's contribution to tourism and local beach goers," said Coggin.

CTA owns the comfort station, but Harrison County is responsible for the maintenance. The facilities will be cleaned daily. And for added security, there's 24 hour video surveillance of the stations.

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