George County Leaders See Green In Pascagoula River

The Pascagoula River is alive, always flowing. the birds, always chirping. To many people, this sounds like a nice place to relax. To Lucedale Mayor Dayton Whites, it sounds like money.

"My wife and I went out Sunday and she could not believe the beauty of the lakes, the trails, the river, and the sandbar," Whites says.

Conservationist Chris Abbett says many people would pay lots of green to see and experience it.

"They can come and experience the natural world by getting out and fishing, hiking, and hunting. And bring new resources to the region in dollars, spending money in hotels, restaurants and spending money in shops,"Abbett says.

These experts are in Lucedale trying to find ways to lure ecotourists here.

"It's a natural resource that we should be taking advantage of," Land Trust Mississippi Coastal Fund Director Judy Steckler says.

In order to do that, people first need access to the river. Whites says that means dirt roads and trails need attention..

"Because of lack of funding, these have grown up and it's been further hurt by the hurricane," Whites adds.

Next, the experts say, tourist need something to do.

"You might want to think about opportunities for people to horseback or go on mountain bikes," Abbett says. "On some of the side streams, the lakes, you may want to offer opportunities for people to come in and camp and spend a couple of days canoeing on the beautiful waterways you have."

Right now, these are just ideas. But in order to turn the secret Pascagoula River into a well-known eco-tourism spot, these leaders says they have to start somewhere.

You may wonder where the money would come from to pay for such projects. Mayor Dayton Whites says there are many grants out there from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Marine Resources. The county can't apply for those grants, though, until they have concrete plans.