BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Imagine floating up to downtown Bay St. Louis, parking your boat and enjoying your favorite restaurant or shopping at your favorite boutique, maybe even staying a night or two. That has been the dream of many boaters in Hancock County for years. Saturday, that dream became a reality as the Bay St. Louis Harbor celebrated its soft-opening.
Chuck Lafleur cut through the still waters of the brand new Bay St. Louis Harbor. He docked his boat, becoming the first to take advantage of the facility, which is the first municipal harbor in Hancock County.
"Had no idea I'd be the first, but I'm glad to be," said Lafleur. "It's going to be an exciting wonderful place for people to bring their boats."
That's what Harbor Master Chuck Fortin is hoping for. He said the success would be well deserved.
"The craftsmanship that went into this is exceptional," said Fortin.
Fortin knows his marinas. He's only been on board with this facility for about a month, but he' has been in the business for more than 25 years working in harbors throughout the country.
"It's one of the better built facilities I've ever seen," said Fortin.
Now, as Harbor Master of this brand new $21 million facility, he couldn't be happier to see the doors finally open. The soft opening saw a few excited guests checking out the new docks and fishing pier.
"I'm so glad that it has finally come to fruition. It's just beautiful," said Carol Strohmetz.
She remembers voting for the construction of the pier. She said after Hurricane Katrina, the city looked through the devastation and saw a clean slate.
"It's like, ok let's start again. So, you think of different things and newer ideas. This is probably the result of that new thinking," said Strohmetz.
When plans for the complex were finally approved, it took two years of construction. Mayor Les Fillingame says this opening day was well worth the wait.
"We fully expect for downtown Bay St. Louis, because of this, to become the premiere harbor destination," said Fillingame.
Saturday was the soft opening for the facility. It will have a grand opening at Bay Harbor Fest which starts on July 25.