Tourism Leaders Not Worried About Beach Closing

The noon cruise to Ship Island is full of tourists. No one we talked to had heard anything about the beach contamination in Biloxi. But the ship captain says after seeing news reports, several curious people called wanting to know the risks, and if they include the barrier islands.

"We're assuring people that the barrier islands are in good shape," Louis Skrmetta with Ship Island Excursions said. "The water quality's excellent. It is a national seashore, and the water quality's monitored quite carefully by the park staff. The water on Ship Island is deep with strong currents and at this time as far as I'm aware, it's not affected by the shutdown."

Tourism Director Steve Richer looks on the positive side of the beach shutdown. He says the water testing is important to protect people's health. As far as impacting tourism, Richer says there won't be any.

"I don't personally think it's going to have a dramatic impact," Richer said. "People are already here; there's families everywhere. The beach is very active, a lot of water activities available as people really love the beach, and I think we're gonna see a really good holiday weekend."

Still, Sand Beach director Bobby Weaver says anytime the beach must close, it's not a good message to send to tourists. And of the three sections off-limits, one of them is the popular stretch of beach at Rodenburg Avenue.

"It's going to be closed, at least the water segment's going to be closed," Weaver said. "It's perfectly okay to be in the sand, but we just encourage people not to venture out into the water in those closed areas."

Bobby Weaver says his department will monitor the beach this weekend. There must be two consecutive clean samples before the state Department of Envirionmental Quality will reopen the water.

To check out the DEQ's Beach Monitoring Program, check out their website.