BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A row of large palm trees now greets visitors as they arrive in Biloxi on the I-1-10 loop. It's part of a county beautification project organized by supervisor Windy Swetman.
Eight tall palm trees are the focal point of the landscape work along the south side of Highway 90 at the I-110 loop. Supervisor Swetman describes the planting project as "decorating our front porch."
"This is the front door to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. More travelers enter Highway 90 and the Mississippi Gulf Coast via the I-110 loop than any other ingress-egress on the 26 miles of sand beach," said the District 1 Harrison County supervisor.
The new palm trees are the latest addition to an ongoing beautification project at the loop. A grove of 30 existing palm trees here has been welcoming visitors for the past two years. And even more are on the way.
"We have 30 more palms that are going to come between Rodenberg and the loop, along the beach there. It's something that's going to give a real tropical look that we hope tourists see and say "wow" I want to stay here, I want to play here and I want to come back to South Mississippi," said Swetman.
Surveys of tourists show that appearance matters. There's the old adage, "you only have one chance to make a good first impression."
"Just as you like your home to look nice for visitors to come, you want the landscaping and the beauty to really shine when the visitors come to our town," said Tina Ross-Seamans, with the Biloxi Bay Chamber.
Another addition visitors will appreciate is well under construction on the beach at Rodenberg Avenue. It's the newest beach comfort station: A million dollar project.
"This is a great location. You've got restaurants, souvenir shops and you've got beach vendors. So, it all works right together to help tourism in South Mississippi," said Supervisor Swetman.
Coming soon to the new row of palm trees is a special system of LED lights that will illuminate the palms in different colors for the different holidays, like Mardi Gras, Christmas and the Fourth of July.
The palm tree planting project cost about $50,000 so far. Supervisor Swetman says it was paid for with some "leftover bond money" that had been earmarked for beach restoration work.