A new small craft harbor may soon be coming to Gulfport. Discussions are still in the preliminary stages, but the harbor would mean a new and improved home for the Ship Island ferry, Port Commission, lighthouse, and more. The Port of Gulfport is finding a way to serve not only its tenants, but the community as well.
A new small craft harbor will be encompassed by a seawall and offer a fishing pier, gazebo, and lighthouse for locals and visitors to use for free. Jonathan Daniels, Executive Director of the Port of Gulfport, says, "Enhancing the break water, not only is it functional, it keeps that area safe, but ultimately putting it back into a situation where people can go out there and fish. We're giving another amenity back to the community."
As it stands now, anglers sneak past fencing to fish off the dilapidated break wall, but a new facility would provide them a safe place to cast their lines. The harbor will also offer a new and improved home for the Ship Island ferry, now tucked away next to Jones Park. Louis Skrmetta, the Captain of the Ship Island ferry, says, "As you can see here behind me, these are pretty big boats, and we're making as many as three to four round trips a day to the islands. So we're in and out of here quite a bit and we need a little bit of maneuvering for these big boats."
Ferry captains say the tricky maneuvering comes on the weekend when they're attempting to back their boats out of the harbor and the presence of many recreational boats cause congestion. Skrmetta also says, "We do have a bit of congestion problems on weekends, weekends in the summer are our peak period."
There is not only overcrowding on the water, but in the parking lot as well. Skrmetta closes, "There are a lot of user groups in the harbor now. You've got family reunions, farmers markets, concerts, and the parking is at a premium here on the harbor right now."
Capt. Skrmetta hopes negotiations continue so they can move and possibly expand operations on the water.