Gateway Project welcomes beach visitors in Harrison Co.

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Beauty and function. Both are part of a new beach improvement project in Harrison County. Special landscaping is designed to enhance the view, while helping halt the blowing sand

As work crews planted the trees, Pete Melby was all smiles. The landscape architect from Mississippi State helped Harrison County design this beach improvement plan.

"It makes the boardwalk more pleasant. Separates the beach from the highway," said Dr. Melby, "We're using sand live oaks on the south side. They only grow about 25 feet tall. And they're native. In the medians, where we have a lot of space, we're using traditional live oaks."

Hundreds of trees will provide a scenic buffer between the boardwalk and busy Highway 90.  Plantings in the sand are designed to divert the blowing sand and keep it from reaching the roadway.

"So we wanted to implement beauty, as well as safety issues. And the manipulation of the sand and plantings so we can stop the blowing sand and also have a very inviting gateway into the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Supervisor Connie Rockco.

More and more visitors are using the improved Cowan Road to reach the shore.

The Gateway Project will not only provide an enhanced landscape, but other visitors amenities are also on the way.

"We'll be building a pavilion. And we will have the fire pit put in soon with a seating area. And we're planting 85 palm trees and 30,000 sea oats," said Supervisor Rockco.

Pullovers along the beachfront will get more attention in phase two.

"We're going to have more benches there. We're going to paint the benches. And we'll have cabbage palms on the front side of where the benches are to cast a little shade and make those spaces feel a part of the beach," said Dr. Melby.

A large welcome sign will also be placed near the gateway where Cowan Road meets the beachfront.

Supervisor Rockco said this first phase of the project cost about $56,000. The money comes from the sand beach budget, discretionary funds and some grant money.

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