By LISA MONTI
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is putting together a partnership to help plan the transformation of vacant green space adjacent to the Point Cadet Marina into a collection of new tourist-friendly marine-related attractions.
Among the improvements Gilich envisions is expanding the Gulf Coast Research Lab’s pier, where research vessels dock, to allow oystermen to offload their harvested oysters.
Another idea is the creation of a seafood marketplace that would sell Mississippi’s wild-caught and aquaculture raised seafood. A center for oyster aquaculture and conservation and another facility focused on deep-sea fishing and conservation are among possible enhancements.
“What I’m hoping we can do is have some joint planning between the city and our public and private partners on the state and local levels, and transform this attractive yet vacant piece of property into something really special, something with vitality that is tied to our past and to our future,” Gilich said.
The area Gilich wants to develop once had numerous seafood factories and shrimp boat docks. Today the land is owned jointly by the city, the Institutions of Higher Learning and the the state of Mississippi. Gilich has chosen former Mayor Gerald Blessey, Biloxi’s counsel for economic development, to lead the joint planning for the project. Gilich and Blessey recently briefed the City Council on the idea of the joint planning initiative.
The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources already has given a thumbs up to the mayor’s request for participation. Commissioners recently authorized the state Department of Marine Resources to take part in the joint planning process.
Steve Bosarge, CMR chairman, said, “This would be a great way to mix commercial fishing with the tourism industry. This project would allow people to see how oysters are harvested and how great they taste. It’s a great opportunity for fishermen and a chance to promote Mississippi seafood.”
City spokesman Vincent Creel said the next step is “to work with the secretary of state and IHL so that they can share our vision on what could possibly be done on that site.”
Gilich said the project already has some momentum based on activity underway in the area. “We are already doing the design work on the already-funded boardwalk,” he said. “There’s huge interest in the resurgence of the oyster industry on Back Bay and possibly creating oyster farms south of Deer Island, and we’ve seen the huge popularity of the world-class fishing tournaments hosted at Point Cadet.”