Gulfport Harbor Master Wants Next Mayor To Focus On Marina

The question being asked is what will the next mayor do to pay for the improvements that must be made to modernize the small craft harbor.

Gulfport has a waiting list for dock space. Joe Bob Buckley leases one of the coveted boat docks.

"I think we feel fortunate to have such a nice harbor here," he said. "We just like to see it maintained properly."

D.J. Ziegler is the facility's harbor master.

"We think we have good service," Ziegler said. "We have a good reputation with out-of-state boaters. And our own boaters are appreciative of the fact that we have a good facility. It's just too old, and in need or repair."

Ziegler pointed to aging, wooden dock pilings, and said that's where the repairs needed to begin. Some of the pilings were nearly 70 years old.

"It's just served its purpose, served it well. But it's time to be replaced," he said.

Ziegler's complaint is that the city hasn't effectively used tidelands money to improve boat docks.

According to documents the harbor master showed WLOX News, there were two occasions when Gulfport initially earmarked tidelands money for harbor improvements. But in both fiscal year 1996 and in fiscal year 2004, that money ended up being used at the Courthouse Road pier.

"Gulfport is the only city on the coast that's elected not to put any tidelands money into rehabilitating their harbor," Ziegler said.

The harbor master said the next mayor must change that, because boat owner leases won't pay for the docks or the dredging work that has to be done inside the small craft harbor.

Four years ago, Gulfport put together a blue ribbon committee to study the city's waterfront, and propose how it could be renovated.

The city council accepted the development proposal, but just like it's done with previous waterfront and harbor improvements, it never put the suggestions into action.