Rockiní the Boats: Bay Harbor officially opens with 2nd annual festival
By Geoff Belcher
Jul 25, 2014, 21:01
There will be a special ribbon cutting ceremony for the harbor on Saturday at 11 a.m.
With nearly two years of construction and two decades of planning behind it, the city of Bay St. Louis will officially celebrate the grand opening of its new municipal harbor and pier today.
The city will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. today as part of the Bay Harbor Fest 2014 events.
"The harbor has been on the city's wish list for a long time," Mayor Les Fillingame said Thursday. "I think the original vision of a downtown marina was in the Sand Beach Master Plan. There was a huge desire at that time to develop our waterfront ... but there was never the funding in place."
Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federally-funded rebuilding efforts changed all that.
"The possibility is now a reality ...," Fillingame said.
"It's going to be a significant attachment to downtown Bay St. Louis and will forever change the way we do business. We know that opening that harbor has forever changed Bay St. Louis in a very, very positive way.
"That harbor is going to be the hub of Bay St. Louis' recreational activity from now on."
A lot of people and companies contributed to the dream project, Fillingame said, including city employees like Buz Olsen and Paula Fairconnetue; Gill's Crane & Dozer Service of Slidell, the general contractor; Dale Partners of Biloxi, the architectural firm; Simpkins & Costelli, Structural Design Engineers of Gulfport; Canon Engineering, Electrical Design Engineers of Gulfport; BMI Environmental Services of Gulfport, which did the environmental permitting; and Brown, Mitchell & Alexander, Inc., the consulting engineers.
"It's not every day you get to work on a nice harbor that is a new project for a community like Bay St. Louis," Dax Alexander of Brown, Mitchell & Alexander said Thursday. "We've done a lot of improvements and renovations for existing facilities, but ... for us, this was a special project to be involved in."
Alexander gave a lot of the credit to BMA's Jason Chiniche, the project manager; and Marty Dove, who did much of the design work and managed a lot of the field work and details.
"Jason did a great job managing the schedule and the budget with the needs of the city and Marty did a great job working with the contractor together to get the details we were looking for," Alexander said.
"It's been a real honor to be a part of this project," Leigh G. Jaunsen of Dale Partners said. "We love Bay St. Louis and really admire the tremendous effort by the community to rebuild from Katrina in a thoughtful and deliberate way. "
"It was nice working out there with everybody," Brett Audibert of Gill's Crane & Dozer said. "I think everything went well, It was designed really well. I think it's real strong.
"And, we finished a month early on the whole project, with no accidents."
Myrna Green, executive director of the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau, said the harbor has already become a huge tourist draw.
"It's incredible," she said Friday. "It has already been more successful than even we possibly could have dreamed."
"The biggest lesson of the whole harbor to the community is the fact that it has come to fruition without having spent a dime of local money," Fillingame said. "We opened that harbor with full ownership and no liabilities."
Harbor Fest continues today with a Kids Fishing Rodeo from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; live music; a juried art market; food fair; custom kite demonstrations and building by Kewl Kites; a 5K Fun Run, 2 Mile Run and 2 Mile Kayak race; Boaters' Rendezvous; classic restored boats; kayak rentals; and a special tribute to Jerry and Melva Fisher, owners of the popular Dock of the Bay, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
There will also be Mitchell Bros. carnival rides, a classic tugboat, and a Mardi Gras sculpture of Poseidon by Studio3 on site during the festival.
More information on this year's event can be obtained at bayharborfest.com, and look for the complete schedule on page 5A of today's edition of the Sea Coast Echo.