GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Jones Park is often known as the "front door" to the City of Gulfport. It is also one of the largest public improvement projects born from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina eight years ago.
Mayor Brent Warr was in office when Katrina hit and when planning began for the park and the adjoining small craft harbor.
He said the goal was to create the "finest park on the entire Gulf of Mexico."
His successor, Mayor George Schloegel, described the park as, "Mississippi's connection to the rest of the world."
The picturesque park is filled with modern structures that emphasize its newness: a giant anchor and prominent pavilion on one end, and an iconic lighthouse at the other.
But while pleasing shapes give this place a certain character, function trumps form. That's why the playground and adjoining splash pad are so popular with young visitors.
"Letting the girls play and hang out," said Rebecca Moore, "Splash in the water."
Moore and her kids joined their home school group for a park outing.
"I like that fact that it's so family oriented," she said.
"You got kids and you need a stroller and you need a large place to walk. So we definitely like the paved walking trail. You can have a couple of strollers on the trail at the same time," said Nicole Leamy.
The Harbor Market is gaining popularity in Jones Park. Vendors now have their own covered pavilion.
One of the more popular public amenities is the walking track that encircles Jones Park. Come to the park any day, especially early in the morning, and you'll find plenty of folks walking, riding a bike or pushing a stroller.
Judy Wentworth enjoys walking the park most every morning.
"I think the ambiance down here is just so beautiful. I can't even hardly believe it. It's just fantastic," she said.
She also thinks the planners got it right when they created the special design of this unique waterfront development.
"The feeling that you get here, just the feeling that this is Gulfport," said Wentworth.
The one concern or complaint we've heard about Jones Park really has to do with its popularity.
Some visitors say they don't like it when a large concert or special event takes over the park and they can't access things like the walking track or boat ramp.