Ocean Springs Leaders Seek Bridge Input

Finding the money to replace or repair a heavily traveled bridge in Ocean Springs could be a problem.

City officials recently ordered the harbor bridge on Shearwater Drive closed because of safety concerns.

The question now is what to do with the aging structure and how to pay for repairs or replacement.

The city closed the harbor bridge because the wooden pilings supporting the span are no longer considered safe. The issue facing city leaders now is deciding what residents want for the future.

"Do they want the bridge repaired? Do they want a new structure? Or do they want just to maybe do away with the bridge," said Mayor Seren Ainsworth.

A popular tourist attraction is affected by the bridge closing. Visitors to Shearwater Pottery must find their way around the detour.

Orben and Reba Smith are return visitors to Shearwater from the Tampa, Florida area.  They were a bit confused by the bridge detour.

"We had only been in via the bridge. And I thought, well we're going to get arrested or something. But we've gotta get there, one way or another," said Orben Smith.

It's not just the inconvenience to the pottery shop customers that makes Marjorie Ash long to see the existing bridge repaired. She says the span is a part of the city's past.

"That bridge has a great history. Of course, kids don't walk to school much anymore, but we did, and we walked over that bridge. It's just been a part of our lives, and a part of the people of Ocean Springs for so long," said the longtime manager of Shearwater Pottery.

Money concerns will be a part of any bridge decision. Ocean Springs already faces a tight city budget. Building a new bridge span to federal engineering standards may not be an option, according to the mayor.

"That option might not be to the liking of the local community. It probably would run into the millions of dollars, so I don't know if that's an actual option," said Mayor Ainsworth.

City leaders are now waiting for public input about the future of this bridge. The chance to speak out is this Monday night at Ocean Springs city hall.  The public meeting begins at 7pm.