Six months ago, Gulfport approved a design concept to redo the waterfront. Now, the designs are gathering dust on a shelf, and nobody is sure if Gulfport will ever give Jones Park a facelift.
Charles Cooper thinks developing the waterfront would be good for the city. He is chairman of Gulfport's blue ribbon waterfront committee. For almost two years, the citizens' group analyzed different designs, and different options for Jones Park and the small craft harbor.
"It's not a waste of time," Cooper said, "because this is the first time we've really got the city council to say yes, let's do something."
On July 3, 2001, the Gulfport City Council adopted an amended version of a concept created by the Wallace Roberts and Todd design team. Cooper remembers that meeting.
"I had a sense of excitement and accomplishment because we finally got the first step of the process underway," he said.
Since that day, there have been few talks and no committee meetings about implementing the Jones Park changes. That's because Gulfport city attorney Harry Hewes advised the council and the mayor to stop development talks until after a federal judge determines who Jones Park belongs to.
If the city wins the upcoming court case, and the council finds a way to fund the waterfront development changes, the committee's plan will be put into action.
But if the Jones family wins, an attorney representing the heirs told WLOX News it's their intent to put something near Highway 49 and Highway 90 that will be good for the city.
No matter what, Charles Cooper and his committee will be watching to see if their wish comes true.
"You have to have focus," Cooper said. "You can call it leadership. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not saying it's an issue. But we do have to have a commitment and create a focus and say yes, this is the best thing for our community."
When Wallace Roberts and Todd presented its designs, the company put a $20 million price tag on the project. Because the plans didn't include a casino, city leaders were unsure how they would pay for the improvements.
Back in 1999, a Jones family heir endorsed the Millennium project. That concept had a casino as its centerpiece.
By Brad Kessie
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