Gulfport Harbor Dredging Work To Start In July

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Every Harrison County city -- except Gulfport -- has rebuilt its waterfront docks. And that fact has many Gulfport boaters scratching their heads in disbelief. But, the city is finally ready to bring boats back to the small craft harbor.

On a cloudless morning, the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor looks so calm, and so picturesque. But, it also appears so lonely.

Other than an occasional trailer at Gulfport's boat launch, or a Coast Guard vessel heading back into port, the empty harbor remains one of the city's most visible Katrina scars.

"Yeah, but the fishing's still good. At least she didn't take that," Alex Carter said as he launched his boat into the harbor.

Carter isn't all that surprised that the boat dock area still reflects Hurricane Katrina's damage, and not its rebirth.

"You know, that was a great disaster. So, you know, it takes time," he said.

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr says the city finally has an agreement with FEMA worked out to dredge the harbor area. And that work should begin the week after the Fourth of July. He says dredging is step one of a post Katrina makeover that will revitalize Gulfport's hurricane damaged waterfront.

"We certainly hope it will," said Gulfport resident Randy Brownlee.

When he's not moving dirt around a construction site, Brownlee's out fishing. The charter boat fishing captain is admittedly frustrated that after 33 months, nothing has been done to rebuild Gulfport's harbor area.

"It would be a nice place to host a water skiing tournament right now," he joked, noting that once hurricane debris was cleared out of the harbor, it looked more like a lake than a home for boats.

Brownlee's a skeptic, because he's heard other timelines, and other harbor renovation promises since Katrina that haven't occurred. Boaters like Brownlee have their own wishes for the harbor that they'd like the city to incorporate. They all center on boating activity in the Bert Jones yacht basin.

"We would certainly like to have our harbor back," he said.

The small craft harbor is one of five locations around Gulfport the city is marketing to potential developers. The architect Andres Duany believes the harbor, Jones Park, the VA property, the Ken Combs Pier and the sportsplex can all become catalysts for the city's recovery.

In fact, on a new Gulfport Economic Development website, the city's new director of that agency writes that with the help of investors, "a course can be set toward a bolder and brighter horizon for Gulfport, Mississippi."