Ideas Abound For Jones Park Development

It's been called the "gateway to Gulfport." And although Hurricane Katrina devastated Jones Park and the adjoining small craft harbor, it remains positioned to become something special.

"I just think it has the potential for something great," says landscape architect Christian Preus.

Preus got involved with post-Katrina planning during the charette. He says Jones Park has potential to be the crown jewel of Gulfport.

"Some of the conceptual ideas are an amphitheater with the harbor as a backdrop. An open lawn that would entertain large crowds for firework displays and different events," he explained.

Other ideas include a boardwalk around the harbor or pedestrian pathways connecting various elements within the nearly 30 acres of park space.

Water and boats and fishing top Ron Roland's priorities. The Harbor Shop owner wants to be a part of any long range plans.

"We have a very, very good fishing industry down here. And I'd like to see that promoted and sustained with some charter boats back down here. And just some entertainment facilities as well," said Roland.

Captain Louis Skrmetta with Ship Island Excursions says the starting point and focus of any development down here should be the water side of Jones Park: The small craft harbor. Captain Skrmetta says if you get the boats down there, everything else will fall in place.

"I think Gulfport is missing the boat by not getting in here and dredging this harbor, getting these boat slips in here. Inviting these transient boats in here, these big mega yachts from all over the northern Gulf and into Gulfport," Skrmetta says.

Park supporters expect to see something beautiful emerge from the planning, like the wild flowers that have popped up since the storm.

"I think there's an opportunity for greatness. Not only for the City of Gulfport, but also the whole gulf coast," said Preus.

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr says the city is getting close to finalizing plans for Jones Park.

The mayor says, "We have ideas and plans to better utilize this green space, hopefully adding such amenities as an amphitheater and a children's play area that will attract more residents and visitors to the park. He added, "We look forward to beginning work on Jones Park and the small craft harbor very soon."

Mayor Warr says the city has secured nearly $2 million to help pay for the redevelopment of Jones Park.