Did you catch my Tuesday story about the revitalization of the Long Beach Harbor? In that piece, I interviewed two boat owners. Claude Dannemann was from Hancock County. Barry Deshamp was a charter boat captain who used to tie his vessel up to a dock in Gulfport.
They were on two different piers. But, what caught my attention on that beautiful day along the water was how both men said basically the same thing. They were asked questions about the Long Beach Harbor. Yet, their answers drifted to an empty harbor a few miles to the east.
Without being provoked, both men made comments about how long it's taking to rebuild the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.
Deshamp's first comment to me was, "We don't have any harbors down there. I mean no piers, no slips, no nothing down there."
The first thing Dannemann said was, "All I can tell you is I'd like to see more harbors up and working. Some of these people are really dragging their feet."
Neither boater did any finger pointing. They never mentioned any names. They simply shared their disappointment with the recovery process along Gulfport's waterfront.
"I think it's getting a little ridiculous this many years out," Dannemann stated. "This is the biggest attraction we've got is harbors."
Why point this out now? Because you're going to hear a lot more about the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor in the coming weeks.
The only mayoral candidate who's qualified for this spring's primary is Joe Spraggins. And he's already made the harbor an issue. His campaign literature cites the fact that in Gulfport, three and a half years after Katrina, "There still are no public docking facilities for boats at the small craft harbor."
Gulfport's mayor maintains the city is working as quickly as it can to clear all of the hurdles necessary to build a better harbor. Nearly 70,000 cubic yards of gooey gunk have been dredged from the harbor. And in January, WLOX News reported the city was taking new bids on the construction phase, because the initial bids to rebuild boat slips were too expensive.
Last August, when the dredging started, Mayor Brent Warr said, "It's time. We've been waiting on it a long, long while."
Barry Deshamp can't wait for the harbor construction to start. Because once it's finished, he said he'd sail the "9-Ball" back to Gulfport, "if they ever get any piers back, and we have something to tie the boat to."
Between now and then, expect Gulfport's mayoral candidates to question and debate the small craft harbor rebuilding process.