Court ruling allows beach clean up in Ocean Springs

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County work crews began removing Hurricane Isaac storm debris from the beaches of Ocean Springs early Friday morning. The post-storm clean-up was delayed because the issue of beach ownership is involved in an ongoing court case.

Jackson County Road Manager Joe O'Neal told WLOX News, "We've been ready to go."

But before his workers could start cleaning the beach, it took consultations with lawyers, a declaration from the health department and an emergency ruling from a judge.

Jackson County and the City of Ocean Springs, requested a motion for "emergency relief" in the ongoing case involving the ownership rights of two beach front land owners.

"That was one of our last options. We were looking at everything. And this just goes to show that when we work together at different levels of government, instead of fighting with each other, we're able to... calmer heads prevail and you can come up with a solution," said County Supervisor Troy Ross.

Legalities aside, Joe O'Neal's maintenance crews quickly got down to business.

"Two of our maintenance crews. They've got front end loaders and dump trucks. And a tractor. To get the marsh grass and other debris up. We're going pretty good this morning. We should finish Ocean Springs front beach Monday and go to East Beach on Tuesday," he said.

Walkers and joggers who use the popular beach front walkway, continued to enjoy it, even as the workers cleaned the beach. Several told us they're happy to see the work.

"Took 'em a week to get 'round to it," said one elderly walker.

"Oh, it was disgusting and I'm glad to see this," said his wife and walking companion.

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran was also delighted with the judge's decision allowing the beach clean-up to proceed. She said now the public will not be "held hostage" by an unsafe beach situation.

"It's a lot easier to tell them, yeah we're cleaning it, instead of telling them, just be patient with us and we're going to come up with a solution. Results are always a lot better than talk. This is our beach. This is the public beach. I don't see any reason it should ever be any different," said Ross.

"I know the public is looking forward to us getting it cleaned up so they can enjoy the beaches for the rest of the year," said road manager, O'Neal.

The court case about beach ownership involves beach front land owners Buddy Gunn and Neil Harris. They filed a lawsuit and the judge ruled in their favor, saying their private property rights extend onto the beach in front of their homes.

Ocean Springs and Jackson County are appealing that decision and the case will likely head to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

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