GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Boaters wanting to launch from the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor are in for a surprise. On Wednesday, all the ramps were closed for several weeks so a road can be built. And that's not sitting well with fishermen.
Kevin Bobinger runs Brady's Bait House in the small craft harbor. With the boat launches now closed, he's worried the loss of customers might kill his business.
One of those potential customers is Kevin Bailey.
"When you have to go all the way to Courthouse to launch a boat, or all the way to Long Beach, it just goes to show that there's not that many boat ramps on the coast." Bailey said. "We need more."
Randy Buntyn will also make the longer drive to hit the water. And he doesn't like it.
"Courthouse Pier is a little bit for most boats, especially if you're coming back in and it's low tide, because the piers aren't long enough," Buntyn said. "And so I'm going to have to go over to Long Beach to launch today."
Most of the fishermen I talked to understand that with progress comes some inconvenience. However, they question the timing of the closing of the boat ramps, right in the middle of fishing season.
Bobinger doesn't mince his words.
"There's no doubt they should have done it another time," Bobinger said. "You know, they've had two ramps closed all year. Only two have been open. So I don't see the reason why they could not have had one or two assessable."
We asked city officials if any consideration given to leaving one or two ramps open? Gulfport Public Affairs Manager Ryan LaFontaine said, "No."
"To have guys pulling boats in and out with cranes and other construction equipment there and work going on, that's just a recipe for disaster," LaFontaine explained.
Until the work is done, boaters will have to make the best of it. Rey Hagar is using the Courthouse Pier for the first time.
"It's a little further to get to Cat Island from here than it is from there," Hagar said. "Plus, I still have to go pull in there if I want to get bait."
The contractor building the road through the harbor has four months to complete the project, meaning the launch ramps will be closed during that time. City officials say the job could be finished sooner than that.