Jones Park Revitalization Celebrated With Jonestoberfest

Gulfport has FEMA's approval to rebuild its small craft harbor boat docks. In fact, test pilings should be driven into the water next week. The small craft harbor construction coincides with a massive makeover of the adjacent Jones Park property. That makeover is courtesy the city of Gulfport and the Friends of Jones Park committee. Saturday, both groups celebrate the next phase of the park's transformation -- from idle field, to lush green space.

Andi Rushton is organizing the party.  In a way, she's like a painter who works with an assortment of canvases. "That is a very interesting description. But it's probably very true," the head of the Friends of Jones Park festival committee said. She painted pumpkins to decorate the Jones Park grounds for a Saturday party. She tapped Gulfport's waterfront for a much bigger endeavor. "And it's not just me. There's a whole lot of artists involved with this project," she said.

When this mural -- entitled Jonestoberfest -- is done, it will depict Jones Park as a warm, inviting place that flourishes amid its oak trees. Rushton sees the park becoming a haven for the entire coast. And that's a far cry from its current perception.

While it's true Jones Park has long been considered a waterfront property with tremendous potential, Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr admits, "It's always been neglected, at least in our recollection. It's time to make it really fine. We intend to."

After Katrina, when Gulfport had a real chance to turn neglect into something special, the Friends of Jones Park committee took a city master plan and vowed to bring it back to life. "Anything that anyone can do has got to be helpful for everybody," said Rushton. "And whatever we can do to move it along quicker, that's what we need to do."

In the next couple of months, a sidewalk will be dug around the perimeter of the park. "I think between six months and a year we're going to see real evidence of a different Jones Park," Rushton predicted.

At the same time, initial work on the adjacent small craft harbor will finally begin. "We understand that they'll be driving the test piles next week, which will then give us the data we'll need to know what to order for the pilings," the mayor said. "They'll start immediately after that with the dredging. It's a long process, and we're having to learn how to work with all the FEMA regulated stuff."

Those broad brush strokes will become the outline of the Jonestoberfest mural. "Everyone is trying to paint the best picture for Gulfport that we can. And that's what we're all down here for," Rushton said.

Jonestoberfest starts Saturday morning at eight with a tree giveaway. About 1,800 good sized trees will be handed out to Gulfport residents. In the afternoon, food booths will be set up, and musical groups will entertain Jonestoberfest patrons.