Gulfport Council Tables Waterfront Development Plans

A blue ribbon citizens committee took its waterfront development plans to the Gulfport City Council Tuesday, but the council wasn't ready to take action on the plan.

Part of that plan includes upgrading Jones Park, bringing retail shops to the small craft harbor and relocating the existing boat ramps.

A Florida consulting firm, Wallace Roberts and Todd, created three proposals for developing the waterfront.  The citizens committee made some suggested changes before recommending one of those project plans.

The Gulfport City Council heard the presentation, but delayed taking action.

City planner, George Carbo, outlined details of the proposed development.

"Continuing the boardwalk that's along the waterfront, along through the Jones Park area," Carbo said.

The overall plan includes both the park and harbor areas. A plan to relocate the existing boat ramps to an area near Moses Pier prompted some questions.

Gulfport resident Patsy Spinks says moving the boat ramps doesn't address an ongoing problem.

"Boat launch parking. We know how bad that's been don't we. Well, it looks like we haven't alleviated the problem; we've just moved it someplace else."

Councilman Billy Hewes wondered how the $22 million project will be paid for.

"I think that would have been just a primary function of Wallace, Roberts and Todd, to come forward with some kind of recommendation on how to fund this. Like I say, it doesn't make a difference if it's $10 million or $50 million. We need to know how to fund it," Councilman Hewes said.

The blue ribbon committee wanted the council's approval of the plans at this work session. Charles Cooper chaired the committee and urged the council's approval of the plans.

"So, I think we should take a step forward, consider the efforts that we put together here as a group," Cooper said.

The Marine Life Oceanarium has long been a permanent fixture along the Gulfport waterfront. But the director of that tourist attraction says his facility was virtually left out of this development plan.

Moby Solangi said a proposed visitors center at Highways 49 and 90 could actually hurt Marine Life.

"Takes away our visibility. It prevents people from coming into our facilities. It also restricts our ability to grow."

In the end, council members put the plans on hold. But the committee chairman wasn't entirely disappointed.

"I don't feel deflated because the door is still open for forward movement here. It's not a defeat by no stretch of the imagination. It is a work in progress," Cooper said.

It's a work the city council will consider again at its July 3rd meeting.