Ocean Springs Leaders Consider Fort's Future

City leaders in Ocean Springs are debating the future of Fort Maurepas . The historic replica on the beach marks the landing of French explorers in 1699.

The board of aldermen recently voted to spend thirty thousand dollars for repairs and maintenance of the fort. Some would like to see a long range plan for preserving and promoting the attraction.

Mayor Seren Ainsworth says the fort is worth preserving.

"In any community, you want to preserve your history. And I think this is just part of our history," explained the mayor.

But problems now plague this historic replica. We found rotting railroad ties, debris scattered about, and inside, the remnants of someone's bon fire. The bigger problem may be the structure itself.

Much of the money set aside by the aldermen may be used for the fencing.

"It's something we need to do. The fort, and the posts surrounding the fort, at the bottom, are rotting and we need to replace that, repair them. And then we need to come up with a plan for completing the fort," said Mayor Ainsworth.

Harold Rogers is an original member of the Fort Maurepas Society, a volunteer group formed to help promote history at the city owned site.

"A lot of people would like to see it tore down and build something else there, but I think the fort should be finished and utilized," said Rogers.

Rogers has volunteered countless hours educating children with living history lessons. He supports a plan to let the park commission take charge of the fort's future.

"They have the, I guess the leadership, they have the money, they can get the money. And they could do the programs. Whereas strictly an all volunteer organization doesn't have this," he explained.

Before investing any money in repairs and maintenance, the board of aldermen wants to look at possible ways to prevent vandalism. They've asked the police chief to come back with a recommendation for a means of securing the fort.

A visiting couple from England discovered the fort while driving around Ocean Springs. They say it should be preserved and promoted.

"Because it's history. Because you should preserve history. And that's basically what it's about isn't it? You wouldn't find it in England. You wouldn't find a historic site neglected," said Alan Willey.

Fort Maurepas supporters want to end that neglect as well.

The fort was built by the state, then donated to the city. Harold Rogers says many newcomers may not realize the fort structure was never finished. The state built only about one third of the original master plan. Money was never set aside to finish the project.