Lighthouse Study Recommends Allowing Public Tours - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/13/03

Lighthouse Study Recommends Allowing Public Tours

The best known landmark in Biloxi remains off limits to public tours.

Visitors are still invited to view and take pictures of the Biloxi lighthouse, but they can't get inside the historic structure.

Worries about safety prompted the city to halt public tours of the lighthouse nearly two years ago. Back then, the city approved a twenty five thousand dollar restoration of the landmark, then hired a consultant to address concerns about safety, accessibility and liability.

The consultant's report is finally finished.

It's often called the most photographed landmark in South Mississippi.

"It's beautiful. It's really very pretty. Very well preserved," said Saray Nagendra.

Two Florida tourists were disappointed to learn visitors are no longer allowed to climb to the top.

"I would love to. Yes, I would," said Nagendra.

Her friend, Helen England, would also like to climb to the top of the lighthouse.'

"And I think that would be interesting. And the view from the top would be interesting," she said.

The Biloxi City Council is about to receive a twenty page report that recommends bringing back public tours. Among the recommendations is hiring a tour guide who's trained in CPR, for the safety of elderly visitors.

"Also restricting access during the hotter time of the day. If it's over a certain temperature at the top of the lighthouse we would not allow tours or if it's a rainy, stormy day like today, we would also not allow access to the building," said City of Biloxi cultural affairs director, Lolly Barnes.

Long range plans involve converting the nearby beach comfort station into an interpretive center and welcome station for tourists. Visitors could watch a video about the history of the lighthouse and stop by the gift shop for a lighthouse souvenir.

The return of public access is welcome news to a visiting couple from from St. Louis.

Steve and Sandy Helmholt would welcome a chance to climb to the top.

"Absolutely. If you can arrange it, we'll do it right now," said Sandy.

The report also outlines safety concerns about visitors having to cross busy Highway 90 to reach the door to the lighthouse. Lolly Barnes says that may need further study. One idea is making the tour guide responsible for getting tourists safely across the highway.

By Steve Phillips

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