BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Increasing public access to nearby Deer Island. That's the main purpose of a project to build a new public pier on the island. Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss plans for the pier.
Deer Island has long been a popular recreational getaway. But only for those with access to a boat.
This project would change that and encourage coast visitors to stay "one more day".
The state of Mississippi now owns the vast majority of Deer Island. This new project involves building a 170 foot long public pier directly across from Point Cadet Marina.
A charter boat will provide ferry service to and from the island.
"Access to the island is critical. That one more day that we're talking about. Keeping people here one more day, is such a huge economic benefit for the coast. And we want to give them every alternative. And now you have it," said Secretary Hosemann, flanked by leaders from the coast legislative delegation.
Deer Island has quite a history of inhabitants and proposed projects; from the Baker family of Biloxi making their home on the island, to plans in 2004 of building a casino there.
"And at first, I thought it was a pretty good idea. But when I told my wife about it, she said, 'The state needs to buy that darn island.' Instead of having a casino out there. And that's what happened. Everything came about through tidelands funds and everything with the entire delegation," said Senator Tommy Gollott.
With the recent popularity of nature-based-tourism, leaders say Deer Island is a natural fit.
"Probably no other place in the Gulf of Mexico that you can leave a gaming table and be in the wilderness in less than 15 minutes. It's a real asset. It's really unique to Mississippi and we're very excited about the project," said Department of Marine Resources executive director, Jamie Miller.
Some may worry that increased public access may have a negative impact. Could increasing the number of visitors damage the environment on Deer Island?
Secretary Hosemann says that concern has been discussed.
"There will be some maps for people. There will be some areas you can go to, some areas we'd like you not to go to. And we want to keep up the island. Everything that goes on the island, needs to come back off when you leave," he explained.
Construction on the new pier should be finished sometime this fall.
The state will issue a "request for proposals" to hire a private company that will operate the boat service to and from Deer Island.