Lighthouse Study To Address Safety Concerns

The most photographed landmark in Biloxi remains off limits to public tours.

Visitors are still welcome to take pictures of the Biloxi lighthouse, but they can no longer climb to the top and enjoy the view.

The lighthouse was closed during a $25,000 restoration project last year. And there's no guarantee it will re open.

It's a question of safety. An upcoming study of the lighthouse will include a safety survey.

The city would like to keep the landmark open to public tours. But that depends on what the consultant recommends.

Greg Fallon planned his road trip through Biloxi just to get a look at the landmark lighthouse. He was disappointed to learn that climbing to the top is no longer allowed.

"To go up there is really a unique and special experience. And it's a lot more fun for example to see that lens in place from up on top of the tower instead of in a museum," Fallon said.

Many lighthouse visitors long for a look inside. But city leaders say there are several safety concerns. The first is crossing the busy highway.

"Making sure visitors are able to get across Highway 90 safely. There are 48 steps to the top and then there's a ladder that goes to the final platform. So, making sure visitors are physically capable of climbing those stairs and getting to the top," explained Lolly Barnes, the manager of historic properties for the City of Biloxi .

Heat is also a concern. The iron structure gets awfully hot inside in the summer sun.

Tourists we talked with favor keeping it open.

Dean and Kati Reid are from Tampa, Florida.

"People are still adventurous and like a little challenge once in awhile," said Kati, explaining her reasons for keeping the tower open to public tours.

Kentucky visitor Elmer Chancellor would also like the tours to continue.

"Oh, I think so. That seems like a good idea. You know, if you're going to have a lighthouse, you might as well see it from the inside," reasoned Chancellor.

A consultant will feature the lighthouse and its history in a special exhibit and educational video. That same consultant will make safety recommendations.

"And we really do want to make it accessible to the public. And we think that if we work with the consultant and come up with some procedures that will allow a safe access that we will be able to do that," Barnes said.

The city is expected to hire that consultant early next month. The final report, including the safety survey, should be finished by mid to late summer.