Coast Tourism Sails Into Fourth On Good Note - - The News for South Mississippi

Coast Tourism Sails Into Fourth On Good Note

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- There were signs across south Mississippi Friday that this was going to be a big weekend for the tourism industry. A drive down Highway 90 brought back pre-Katrina memories. Swimming pools at new condominium towers were packed. Sand beach locations, with parking bay access, had sunbathers and swimmers enjoying the weather. And the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor had a flotilla of boats motoring out to the islands.

Greg Morgan was about to be on one of those vessels.

"This is a great day to just be out on the water with friends and family," he said.

So Morgan's family made the 100 mile trek from Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Gulfport's small craft harbor. He said he came for "just a little relaxation. And enjoy our freedom and independence."

The Gulfport boat launch has three piers connected to it. And on this Fourth of July, those piers were very busy.

Otis Gill brought his boat down from Kokomo. He didn't care that $4.00 gas prices would make the 112 mile drive, and the voyage out to Ship Island very expensive.

Despite dipping deep into his wallet to cover the cost of the trip, "We decided to come," Gill said. "Let's go have some fun."

Jeff Saucier's fishing team had plenty of fun. The Gulfport man and his friends ignored the nation's gas crisis and reeled in two good sized redfish.

"Just put it in and go, and don't worry about it," said Saucier, trying to forget about what he paid to fill his boat with fuel.

There was an hour late Friday morning when Gulfport could have used a traffic cop to direct boats and trailers in and out of the water. During that time, 30 boats either entered or left the boat launch. Each boater was determined to make sure the Fourth of July was a true family adventure.

"Why not?" wondered Bob Crawford.

The Pass Christian man was on his way to Ship Island.

"It's the best place to be. Go out to the island like we always do. It's just a tradition."

Local hotels were initially worried that Fourth of July check in numbers would be weak. But hotel executives say a new program that gives people $50 gas cards when they stay here two nights has bolstered holiday bookings.

By Brad Kessie

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