Mississippi Takes Ownership Of Deer Island

Secretary of State Eric Clark picked up a pen Friday afternoon, and with his signature claimed ownership of Deer Island for Mississippi. The state needed nearly $17 million for the purchase, but couldn't afford that. So, state leaders worked with Mississippi's Congressmen and other state agencies to find the money.

"This proves that folks can do great things when they work together," Clark said.

Casino developers once had their eyes on Deer Island, but the state's purchase means those development dreams are now dead. It also means that the state can look for ways to stop erosion.

"The Corps of Engineers has been drawing up plans to take the dredge materials that come from the bottom of the channels as they periodically maintain them and start putting them on Deer Island," Rep. Gene Taylor said.

The Department of Marine Resources will manage Deer Island. Leaders will present the management plan to the public sometime next month.

"The management plan will probably enhance public access by providing some additional places to tie up a boat and that sort of thing," explained Dr. Fred Deegen.

Gloria Meaut Lestrade is thrilled.

"I always dreamed about having the island into a park for everybody to really enjoy," she said.

Lestrade's family once lived on Deer Island, and they still own a very small portion of it. Friday's purchase by the state was only for the 92 percent owned by the Sanders family. So, now state leaders will need to work with individual families to take control of what's left.

The state of Mississippi will be putting up the most for the Deer Island purchase. Ten million dollars will be paid over the next ten years using tidelands funds.