JACKSON COUNTY, Mississippi — With $10 million in Tidelands funds released to the Mississippi coast by the Secretary of State’s office, Jackson County is already set to move forward with some $1.1 million in projects which will be funded with Tidelands proceeds.
In announcing the release of the funds in late October, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann noted the $10 million is the statutory maximum allowed under state law. Total Tidelands revenues for fiscal 2018 were $10,924,573.
Monies going into the Tidelands Trust Fund are generated by leases on lands owned by the State in trust for the public, as well as assessments from onshore gaming operations.
“As public servants, it falls to us to make sure future generations are able to enjoy our beautiful Gulf Coast,” Hosemann said. “The Tidelands Trust Fund and the important projects it fuels help make this possible.”
Jackson County and its four municipalities will all benefit from the infusion of Tidelands monies, which are released to the Mississippi Department of Resources, which in turn selects the project to be funded.
In Gautier, $250,000 will go towards numerous improvements at Shepard State Park.
“The biggest thing will be preliminary engineering for the construction of a boardwalk along the northwest side of the park along the marsh,” said April Havens, Gautier’s Grants Administrator.
“It will be for bird-watchers, nature-lovers, with interpretive signage with some educational materials for park visitors and campers.”
In addition, once the log cabin building currently under construction is ready to be occupied by park personnel as the check-in and visitor’s center, the current park office will be renovated into a laundry and amenity room for overnight campers.
“That’s something they’ve been asking for a long time,” Havens said. “Currently, we have to send them off-site to do their laundry.”
Other improvements for campers will be picnic tables, upgrades to RV site electrical outlets, new firepits and grills.
Also on the City’s list for the park are new playground equipment, walking/jogging trails and the equipment to maintain them, and new targets for the archery range.
Havens noted the Tidelands money may not allow them to complete all of those improvements.
“We write all of it in (to the application) so that we can do them if the money allows,” she said. “The top priorities would definitely be the walking trail along the marsh and the upgrades for campers.”
In Ocean Springs, $240,000 in Tidelands funds has been allocated to help stabilize Front Beach, which has for years suffered from erosion.
Mayor Shea Dobson said the City will spend some of the money on a living shoreline along one section of the beach, then commission a study to determine the best course of action to protect the remainder of the beach.
“There’s considerable erosion going on,” Dobson said. “We are going to do the living shoreline, but we also want the study to make certain we pursue the best option.”
The Jackson County Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, will be the recipients of $275,000 — ostensibly for improvements to the Brittany Avenue boat launch in the St. Martin community.
Supervisor Troy Ross, who represents the St. Martin area, said the biggest issue with the heavily-used boat launch is the lack of adequate parking. Currently, the County is in negotiations with adjoining property owners to expand the parking.
“We’re still in negotiations with them as to whether or not they’re willing to sell,” Ross said. “We’ve got to get that done first. Once that gets done, we’ll be able to expand the parking and make some other improvements.”
Those other improvements would be repair/replacement of awnings, additional water outlets, and bait-cutting stations.
But, Ross said, the key is the parking. He estimated 70 percent of the Tidelands money allocated for the project would go towards purchase of the property and asphalt. If the owners ultimately refuse to sell, he said the money could be diverted elsewhere.
“This isn’t a case where I think forcing the issue is a good idea,” Ross said. “It isn’t a major public need, something we have to do. If they don’t want to sell, I’ll support moving the money to another project.”
Other Tidelands-funded projects approved by the MDMR are $200,000 in amenities for Point Park in Pascagoula, and $150,000 for a Dantzler Street alignment project in Moss Point.
In announcing the release of the Tidelands funds to the coast, Hosemann noted that Tidelands funds sent back to the coast, including the $9.6 anticipated during fiscal 2019, will have totaled more than $100 million since 2008 — a marked increase over the previous decade when the coast received $54.5 million in Tidelands funds.
Original source: GulfLive.com