City Leaders Say Responsibility Will Make Dedeaux Park Safer

Long Beach resident Stephanie Desporte often brings her two children to Dedeaux Park to play in the waters of the Biloxi River, but she says she's very cautious.

"You never know what's going to happen in this kind of current, in this kind of water," she said.  "You never know."

But she says not everyone is so careful.

"You see a lot of people who don't watch their kids. A lot of that goes on."

After last weekend's drownings, the city of Gulfport put up signs warning people about the dangers of the river, but officials say there's not much else they can do.

"After that, it's really up to the parents," said George DeCoux, the Gulfport Leisure Services Director.  "You know, you just can't ever let your kids get out of your eyes."

Officials say another problem is that teens enjoy jumping off a nearby bridge.  In the past, people have broken their necks here, so there are concerns about liability. There is also a trash problem, and officials say that due in part to the fact that people keep taking the trash cans.

"Over the past year, we have lost 30 55-gallon drums here for, either they've been thrown in the water or disappearing," DeCoux said.

In the early 1980s, Dedeaux Park was plagued with crime problems. There were also several drownings and injuries, so Harrison County shut the park down. A Gulfport City Councilman says that could be a possibility if problems here continue.

"I'm not above going to the mayor and saying, 'Mr. Mayor, we can't control it, so let's close it,'" Gulfport City Councilman Chuck Teston said.

He says that is a last resort.  He says people who use Dedeaux Park need to be more responsible, so it is a fun and safe place for people to play.

On Tuesday, Leisure Services Director George DeCoux will meet with law enforcement agents from the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. That's the agency that patrols the Biloxi River at Dedeaux Park. DeCoux would like to see if patrols could be increased there.