Tideland funds helped turn a D'Iberville eyesore into a waterfront showcase. The city hosted a dedication ceremony Monday afternoon for the latest addition to Fountain Park. It's a new 2,000 square foot marine learning center which adds an element of education to the project on the bay.
The two story pavilion is the latest expansion of an ongoing project. Fountain Park already includes four piers and a waterfront boardwalk. The improvements represent a dramatic change.
Andy Balius is outgoing chairman of the D'Iberville Port Commission.
"Where the pier is and the walkway it was just terrible. Trash and in deplorable condition. Nobody really wanted to come down here because they didn't feel safe," he explained.
A crowd admired the new facility during a brief dedication ceremony on the second floor space that will soon serve as an open air classroom.
"The teachers can come out with their classes. Go out and catch the marine life, bring it back and dissect it. And really get a hands on look at marine environment," D'Iberville mayor, Rusty Quave, said.
"We'll be able to show the sea life, the bird life, the plant life that is native to this area," Balius said.
This new marine learning center is one of two dozen projects along the coast funded by nearly six million dollars in tidelands money this year. Other projects include a new boat launch on the Pascagoula River, dredging in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor and an extension of the Pearlington Pier in Hancock County.
The man who doles out the tidelands checks, cut the ribbon. Secretary of State Eric Clark says it's an ongoing fight to keep the tidelands funds in coastal counties only.
"If you took five million dollars and put it in the state's general fund, the next day, nobody would know where it went. And it wouldn't be a drop in the bucket as far as curing the state's fiscal problems. But it does enormous good here on the Gulf Coast," said Clark.
You'll find the latest evidence in Fountain Park, on the bay in D'Iberville.
Since its creation in 1989, the tidelands fund has generated more than $40 million for various marine projects and improvements along the coast.