Gulfport working to accommodate boaters, visitors at new harbor - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport working to accommodate boaters, visitors at new harbor and Jones Park

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The City of Gulfport is working to balance the needs of boaters and other visitors who use the new harbor and Jones Park.

Some boat owners have complained about the new parking arrangements at the Gulfport Harbor. They've also raised concerns that the boat ramps are closed for several days prior to a music festival or other big event in Jones Park.

"We know it's a little different than it had been before," said David D'Aquilla, the Assistant Director for the Department of Leisure Services in Gulfport.

He said there have been changes for those who use the harbor boat ramps. Boaters can no longer park their trailers across from the boat ramp; that paved lot is reserved for park patrons and Ship Island customers. The new spot for boaters is farther away, in front of the Coast Guard Station.

"We have three acres that we've set aside here. Right now it's limestone parking, to accommodate the boater traffic, to accommodate trailers and trucks. The design on the boat launch ramps has a nice turn around area for boaters," said D'Aquilla. "We have an area for boaters to stage and we have five ramps available. They're able to come in and load or unload at the boat launch ramp."

One of the biggest complaints we've heard from boaters is the distance from the boat ramp to the new parking lot. And while it's certainly not as close as the old parking area, it's not that far either.

"And we realize it's not as convenient as it was before, but we have handicap accessibility from here to the boat launch ramps and we feel it will get you from point A to point B," said D'Aquilla.

Another concern expressed by some boat owners:  The ramps are closed for several days prior to a festival or big concert event in the park. That's a safety and liability issue for the city, giving set-up crews enough space to safely install stages and equipment.

D'Aquilla said there may be a way to keep one or two ramps open while maintaining that safety zone.

"Our goal is to keep evaluating what we're doing, keep evaluating what we can do better and try to put those changes in place to make it something everybody can come out here and enjoy," said D'Aquilla.

The city will keep boaters posted about any changes in the future.

A new bait shop at the harbor is scheduled to open in March. Work also continues on the Harbor Market Pavilion, which should be finished in the next few weeks.

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