Volunteers Do Spring Cleaning On Ship Island

Ship Island is about to welcome another season of visitors.

Ship Island Excursions will begin operating boat service to and from the island this weekend. The boat service runs through October.

But before the first visitors arrive, park rangers and volunteers are busy with a little spring cleaning.

Volunteers and employees with Ship Island Excursions unloaded supplies at the dock Wednesday morning. Team members then transported the goods down the pier toward Fort Massachusetts.

Volunteers inside Fort Massachusetts battle a winter's worth of dampness and mildew. Spring cleaning is an annual assignment before the first tourists arrive.

Faye Walmsley is an interpreter with the National Park Service.

"We want to sweep out the fort, clean off the shelves, get the brochures set up, get the signs set up. Basically, general cleaning. Get the benches all ready for our visitors," she said.

Biloxi native Jack Madison finds Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts fascinating. That's why he's served for years as a volunteer.

"This is part of our heritage. The more you read and study about the island and the fort itself, the more you appreciate it. Because every corner in this fort has another story to tell you," said Madison.

With its limited number of paid staff members, the park service relies heavily on a team of volunteers. The volunteers not only help with cleaning, they also assist with visitor tours during the busy summer season.

Chuck Gorecki is looking forward to volunteer service and island solitude. He's agreed to live on the island for the next three months.

"Keeps me intellectually stimulated. I also enjoy meeting the public and working with park personnel. I find they're generally enthusiastic about the park and positive people," he said.

They're positive about getting the place spruced up, before the first visitors come calling.

The Skrmetta family operates Ship Island Excursions at the Gulfport Harbor. Again, the first trips to the island begin this Saturday.