The mayor of Ocean Springs says despite all the problems, he's as committed as ever to building a new sports complex. For three years, city leaders have been trying to build the complex on 120-acres of property near Highway 90 and Highway 57. The problem is most of the property is wetlands. Several environmental agencies have turned down the city's request to fill in some of the land.
Monday night, Mayor Seren Ainsworth held an informational meeting to update residents on the project. He says the city spent $370,000 to buy the complex property. It also paid an additional $160,000 for some land in Wade to preserve, in exchange for developing the wetlands. The mayor says the city has scaled-back the project and set aside conservation easements, in hopes of getting approval.
Supporters say the city desperately needs more recreational areas, like soccer fields, baseball diamonds and a senior citizens center. Doug Denehie says just about everyone he has talked to favors the complex. He says they have wetlands concerns, but they also realize that some compromises have to be made. Denehie says so far, the people who are concerned with the environment are unwilling to compromise in any way, shape or form.
Steve Shepard says he understands that the complex will be for the kids, but so is wetlands. Shepard says wetlands support fishing, and the reason the Department of Marine Resources has a problem with developing the wetlands property is because it threatens fishing. Shepard says every time we fill in wetlands, a few less fish are caught, and if people can't understand that, it's because they weren't well educated.
District 5 Supervisor John McKay also spoke at the meeting. He says the Board of Supervisors supports the complex project, and he asked all supporters to rally behind it.
Mayor Ainsworth says city leaders are still working on the project. He says they will meet with representatives from five state and federal environmental agencies next week, to see if both sides can reach a compromise.