OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A popular park with increasing traffic and a narrow road. Mix those three things together, and you get the problem now facing the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs.
Park leaders want the public's help in addressing traffic safety concerns. Traffic at the Gulf Islands National Seashore is ever increasing. Continued growth in East Ocean Springs and the addition of a traffic light at Park Road and Highway 90 are among the reasons.
The park's narrow roads were designed primarily for park visitors, not commuters.
"People are always looking for the quickest way to get to and from work and have discovered the connection through the park," said park Superintendent Dan Brown. "That has increased traffic, and now, instead of serving as an entrance to Davis Bayou, the vast majority of the traffic on at least the first mile of park road is local commuter traffic."
More traffic has created safety concerns, especially since drivers share these roads with bicyclists and pedestrians.
"One of the first things people have suggested, actually, is widening the road surface to include a bicycle and pedestrian lane," said Brown.
Steve Hebblen frequently rides his bike on park roads.
"Well, I always use a rear view mirror and look, and hopefully everyone will get over. They're supposed to give everyone three feet, but that doesn't always happen," Hebblen admitted. "We can ride on the highway as it is, but it would be safer for everybody if there were a dedicated lane."
One of the ideas being considered, although it's not very popular, is shutting down VFW Road. That would reduce traffic in the park by cutting down on the number of commuters who use VFW Road as a shortcut.
Commuters like Don Bush would hate to see the busy road closed.
"As far as people driving it fast, sometimes they do, but the police patrol it, the park ranger patrols it. I'm always doing 35 because I know they like to sit at the bridges," said Bush.
Brown says he is anxious to hear the public's ideas next week. He says nothing has been decided yet and the whole process could take up to a year.
The public hearing on the traffic safety issue is next Thursday, Sept. 11, from 3:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the park visitors center. It's not a formal meeting, but rather a "come and go" format where people can learn about the issue and share their ideas and concerns.