Group Celebrates Cat Island Purchase

It's being called the "crown jewel" of the barrier islands. A large portion of Cat Island is now a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

The group called "Friends of Gulf Islands" hosted an island excursion Monday to celebrate the preservation of Cat Island.

The island had been privately owned by the Boddie family since 1911. The family could have made more money selling it to private developers, but decided long term preservation is in everyone's best interest.

"Cat Island has been very much a part of gulf coast history," explained park ranger Mike Hobbs as the island excursion neared its destination.

Friends of Gulf Islands learn a bit of island history as their boat approached the shoreline.

Preservation was the buzzword aboard this excursion. The beauty of Cat Island will become a showcase for Gulf Islands.

"The Gulf Islands National Seashore gives the Mississippi Coast one of the most incredible front yards in our country. And Cat Island is a wonderful addition to that," said George Boddie, whose family owned the island since 1911.

Plans for the expanded front yard are still being considered. Most likely it will remain wilderness, like Horn Island.

Jerry Eubanks is superintendent of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

"We will be going through a planning process as to what will be happening to it in the future. And that has yet to be determined. My guess is that most people want to leave it pretty much like it is," Eubanks said.

Members of the Boddie family are counting on preservation. For decades, they've considered a variety of offers to sell the island.

"This acquisition by the National Park Service is the best possible outcome for the island for our family and for the people who live in South Mississippi," Boddie said.

He also joked about various bugs welcoming folks to the island. We soon discovered he wasn't kidding. We're told the worst of the hungry bugs happens only certain times of year. But the natural beauty of Cat Island is always present.

Gulf Islands will assume ownership of Cat Island in stages. Right now, it owns the western most three miles and the southern most one mile.

The majority of the island will become a part of the Park Service as the $25 million purchase price is paid off by the federal government.