Harrison County hires MSU professor to beautify, protect beach

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Mississippi State University beach expert will help Harrison County craft a plan to control erosion and beautify a prominent section of beach. On Monday, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors agreed to spend no more than $10,000 to hire Dr. Pete Melby. His job is to spruce-up "a gateway to Harrison County."

The Cowan Road-Highway 90 intersection is considered one of the main entrances to the Mississippi Coast. Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco wants to turn that area into a more scenic, welcoming site for our guests.

"This area is the first area that people see when they come from I-10 and they get a glimpse of what Harrison County is all about. So we'd like to have that look as nice as we can so it's inviting to our tourists," said Rockco.

Rockco pushed for the proposal to hire MSU landscape architect Dr. Pete Melby. He will help the county design and oversee the beach beautification project stretching from Cowan Road east to DeBuys Road.

"Dr. Melby has been working on the sand beach for over 25 years," said Rockco. "He knows about plant material. He knows the profile of the beach, and he has great ideas that we're going to implement right here."

The first priority is to control erosion by pushing sand away from the seawall and creating dunes with Sea Oats, instead of Sea Grass.

"It won't do any good to plant anything if we don't stop the sand, so that will be one of our first issues to lower the profile and create dunes that will stop this blowing sand," said Rockco.

The county also plans to put out four bonfire pits with seating around them. Here are some other ideas:

  • Beautify the open canal and add sea life art to the crosswalks.
  • Scrape away the sand and weeds from the medians and landscape them.
  • Install seating and better fencing around the Least Tern areas.
  • Finally, put up more informative signs to tell tourists about vendors and other beach amenities.

"If you want to go lay out, or you want to go fishing or the different amenities that you do on the beach, maybe the vendors, there's no signage. The signage needs to be attractive and it needs to be very informative and that is something that we're lacking," said Rockco.

The work should start sometime in April. The first thing you'll probably see is more palm trees going up, and the sand level going down. Rockco said she doesn't know yet how much the entire project will cost the county, because she is still seeking various funding sources.

"What we want to do is have an inviting tourist attraction, starting right here," said Rockco.

Also Monday, the supervisors approved a proposal to designate Highway 90 as a Scenic Byway. Rockco said the move will allow Harrison County to apply for funding for landscaping and signage.

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