The Mississippi Coast is turning its gaze to the water for economic development. Three new public marinas are either complete or under construction, which all told will bring nearly 1,000 new slips to the area. Financed primarily using Federal Community Development Block Grants awarded to the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the total investment into recreational boating is nearly $94M.
Already complete, the 319-slip Gulfport Small Craft Harbor located on the Mississippi Sound is a full reconstruction of the City of Gulfport’s recreational marina which was lost in Katrina. This past spring, the harbor and its large outdoor pavilion were host to the Gulf Coast Yacht and Boat Show. Thousands of attendees walked the piers amongst the towering utility stations that rise 30 feet above sea level. Harbor Master George Manemann explains, “We received hazard mitigation grants that allowed us to place the electrical equipment, utilities — the most expensive items to replace — above the height of a potential storm surge.”
There are already 137 slips under contract, capable of hosting yachts up to 140 feet, just blocks from the town’s bustling downtown, beaches, casino and the Gulfport Yacht Club. The harbor and her adjacent park are clearly refocusing Gulfport in a more maritime direction.
The surprisingly attractive utility towers will not solely be a feature of the Gulfport. Down the coast in Bay St. Louis, the city’s first public marina is under construction and will also see utility towers. The new 163-slip harbor is adjacent to the town’s main street and restaurant row, with construction expected to be completed in May. At a cost of $21M and capable of servicing vessels up to 60’ in length, Bay St. Louis appeals more towards the transient market as well as boat owners in nearby New Orleans, many of whom have second homes on this part of the coast. The marina is set to open May 2014.
Across the bay in Pass Christian on the Mississippi Sound, the split commercial and recreational harbor is doubling in size with the addition of 400 state-of-the-art slips and piers. At a cost of $33M, it is also the most expensive of the new marinas. Home to the Pass Christian Yacht Club, which traces its roots back to 1849, and close to the country’s second largest oyster reef, this public marina is already near capacity and the expansion is most welcome by a town still recovering from Katrina.
With existing public marinas rebuilt in Long Beach, Ocean Springs and Biloxi, and the addition of a new private marina in Biloxi, the Mississippi Coast is building the infrastructure now to become a world class cruising and fishing destination.