Who owns the beaches in Jackson County? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Who owns the beaches in Jackson County?

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Ocean Springs beaches are still a mess from Hurricane Isaac, and a court battle is being blamed. Ocean Springs beaches are still a mess from Hurricane Isaac, and a court battle is being blamed.
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

We have a follow up on the court battle that has left Isaac damaged Jackson County beaches a mess.

They are languishing because of a recent court ruling granting two East Beach property owners in Ocean Springs ownership of their portion of that beach. It's a ruling state and local officials plan to appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. And until Jackson County officials know the outcome of that appeal, they aren't cleaning the beaches.

The county has always maintained the beach, but not anymore, according to Supervisor John McKay.

"We as city and county officials will be held personally liable for expending tax dollars on private property and we can't take that chance," McKay explained.  "I don't want to have to pay for the cleaning of the entire beach out of my pocket." 

Buddy Gunn is one of the two East Beach property owners who won in court. He maintains the judge's ruling pertains to just the two properties in question, and nothing more.  And he said his beach can be used by anyone. 

"I have been here since 1989 and the beach has been wide open for everybody to use and enjoy all this time," Gunn said.  "What we have done, because I knew that I was paying taxes to the water's edge, I have always cleaned up the property down there."  

The city's mayor, Connie Moran, is caught in the middle, and just wants the beach cleaned. Having it declared a pubic health hazard could be the answer.  

"It's rotting, it's stinking, it has rodents in it, people have seen snakes in this mess," Moran said.  "Then the city can come in after getting a right of entry from the beachfront property owners and we can clean it up." 

Meanwhile, private citizens concerned about the looks of Front Beach, concerned about this doorway into the city, have decided to take matters into their own hands by organizing their own clean-up. 

Scott Taylor is heading up that effort.  

"It's disgusting, for one, and something should already have been done. You know we have Cruisin'  the Coast coming up soon and we need this beach," Taylor said.

The only South Mississippi beach excluded from the ruling is the Harrison County beach, since it's a man made beach.  Other beaches are considered natural under the ruling. 

Meanwhile, Jackson County officials say they will appeal the lower court ruling to the state supreme court and will ask for an expedited hearing on the matter.

Click here to read the full court filing on the beach ownership.

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