Group Promoting Ft. Maurepas - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/26/04

Group Promoting Ft. Maurepas

Supporters of Ft. Maurepas in Ocean Springs say the wooden replica is an important tribute to the past.

But their efforts to preserve and promote early coast history are facing a modern day problem. City finances are tight.

Those proponents say their plan for the fort is a worthwhile investment.

Gloria Skillestad sees untapped potential and possibilities among the aging wood that is Ft. Maurepas. Built by the state more than 20 years ago, the fort was never finished. But the Ft. Maurepas Foundation has a two and a half million dollar dream plan in place.

"Completion of the fort itself, the visitors center, the educational center, the museum within itself. All of the things that are part of this long range plan from Ft. Maurepas Foundation," Skillestad explained.

A wooden model shows what the finished fort is supposed to look like. The group is asking for just over 100 thousand dollars from the city. That money would help the foundation get a start at pursuing grant dollars.

"The grants are there. But we have to have the support of the city. Without the support of the city, the grants, they will just not come into play," Skillestad said.

Supporters of the fort now face the challenge of convincing city leaders to allocate 114 thousand dollars at a time the city already faces a tight budget. One alderman says the answer may be a bond issue to help fund Ft. Maurepas and pay for several other city projects.

"What the people of Ocean Springs need and I think the majority of them want it. And if it means going out after bond money, in my eyes that's the solution," said alderman at large, Danny Jalanavich.

He says a bond issue could also help finance a new public safety center and recreation complex.

 Gloria Skillstad says ignoring the fort project would be like locking the gate on a tourist and educational attraction that could make the city proud.

The Ft. Maurepas Foundation took its budget proposal to the Ocean Springs board of aldermen last week. The board has "not" yet voted on the funding request.

By Steve Phillips

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