Proposed Sports Complex Hits Another Snag

Ocean Springs leaders have big plans for the acreage that is mostly wetlands. They want to build what they say are much needed soccer, baseball and softball fields. But the mayor admits it's been anything but easy.

"It's been one of the most frustrating projects I've ever been associated with, but it makes me more determined now to try to go ahead and try to get the project accomplished," Mayor Seren Ainsworth says.

The Commission on Marine Resources is worried that if the city fills 65 acres, the surrounding area will flood. But Mayor Ainsworth says the commissioners encouraged the city to continue working with the agency.

"We have left that an open opportunity for the City of Ocean Springs to sit down with their staff, sit down with the Department of Marine Resources and try to work out any possible solution to their concerns," Mayor Ainsworth says.

One citizen who has been very outspoken about the recreation complex says she's glad the city is now trying to be more environmentally friendly. Environmentalist Becky Gillette says all the obstacles the city has faced in trying to fill in these wetlands have been a tough lesson.

"Because if you fill in wetlands and cause downstream flooding of homes then guess what, the government is asked to come in and bail out those homeowners and buy that place out," Gillette says. "This has happened again and again and we need to learn from our mistakes."

The city has spent more than $600,000 on the property, consulting and engineering fees.

Department of Marine Resources and the EPA also opposes the project in its current form because the agencies are worried about flooding if the area is developed.