Gulf Island National Seashore releases general management plan

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Under a newly released general management plan, some changes could be coming to Davis Bayou. The new plan has set guidelines to better preserve existing resources across the National Seashore. WLOX's Caray Grace spoke with a park official Wednesday, to learn more on how this plan will impact Mississippi.

For years, the National Park Service has been developing a general management plan, with the input of the public, to make sure the parks, wildlife, and barrier islands of Gulf Islands National Seashore are protected.

"It's been a long process and we've got a ton of great public input, and we're excited that it's finally out as a result of a lot of people and a lot of agencies," said Chief of Science and Resource Stewardship Cassity Bromley.

A critical part of the plan is the preservation of Mississippi's five barrier islands. The national park service wants to make sure the heavily traveled islands are being well taken care of.

"Horn and Petit Bois islands are both congressionally designated wilderness. So with those islands we're concerned about managing them as places without a lot of infrastructure, where people can go to get away from it all," said Bromley.

In the general management plan, there is an option that could potentially limit public access to Horn and Petit Bois islands, but Bromley says no one should worry about losing access to those beaches.

"What we're looking at with those wilderness islands is ways to protect that wilderness character and still allow people to enjoy them," said Bromley.

Another item in the 500 page document is VFW Road at Davis Bayou in Ocean Springs.  Bromley says, the original road was built to get people into the park, but it has since become a commuter route.

And that's causing safety concerns for joggers and bikers enjoying the park.

"What the GMP directs us to do is to evaluate a whole range of alternatives of ways to make this road safer for pedestrians for people on bikes for a bunch of user groups. Closing VFW is one of the alternatives that will be considered, but it will be considered within a whole suite of additional ways to make that road safer," said Bromley.

The general idea of the plan is to use the seashore as an outdoor classroom and preserve the ecosystem for generations to come.

This is a long term plan, but if changes need to be made in the future, the national park service will call for public input, just as they did when formulating the original document.

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