When it comes to what Gulfport's waterfront and the adjacent Jones Park property can become, Mayor Brent Warr doesn't mince words.
"It should and will become the finest park on the Gulf of Mexico," the mayor said.
The way Warr sees things, designing a $33 million park and harbor that meets those expectations is a lot like fishing. If you use the right bait, you'll catch what you're after.
Catherine Jennings was fishing on the east end of the small craft harbor Monday afternoon. As she looked across the water at downtown Gulfport, she ignored Hurricane Katrina's mess.
"I see the beautiful coast it's always been," Jennings said. "I think everything is going to be beautiful. Just gotta give it a little time."
When it comes to Jones Park, Warr has tried to be patient.
"It takes a lot of time. And boy it just drives us crazy how much time it seems to take, much longer than we ever estimate," he said.
Mayor Warr initially thought a plan to redesign Jones Park and rebuild the small craft harbor would take a few months to complete. When that timeline became impossible to keep, Warr worked out a deal to have excess dirt dumped around the park. Now, nearly 19 months after Katrina, the Wallace Roberts and Todd consulting firm is two weeks away from unveiling how this dirt will help sculpt a new look for Jones Park.
"It should be, I think the Jones Park family would want it to be, and our determination is that it be the finest park on the Gulf of Mexico," Warr said. "And it will be."
The mayor says don't be surprised if the new park includes and ampitheater and a ballpark. And there's a good chance the spot where Catherine Jennings was fishing will become a collection of waterfront shops.
Gulfport has about $20 million of the $33 million it will need to redo Jones Park and the small craft harbor.
Mayor Warr will have a few more details about Jones Park improvements at Tuesday's city council meeting. The presentation from Gulfport's waterfront consulting team is April 3. Wallace, Roberts and Todd have done other waterfront designs for the city. The mayor said some of those concepts would be incoporated into the post-Katrina look of Jones Park and the harbor area.