Phase 2 of the Shore Boulevard Recreation Trail project, located to the east of the Historic Gulfport Casino along Boca Ciega Bay, is on schedule regarding construction and is expected to be completed by about September 30, 2017, said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
In addition to a street-level sidewalk, “there will be a water view from an elevated boardwalk-type overlook made out of brick pavers,” he said.
Though the area between the Casino and Williams Pier was never technically a beach, the original plan called for access steps down to the water and sand areas from the elevated overlook, he said.
But at the July 18, 2017 city council meeting, it was decided that Gulfport would not partner with the Army Corps of Engineers on a beach nourishment project because the permission workflow and funding to move forward regarding cost and scope “got out of hand,” said Mayor Sam Henderson at the meeting. The original plan for the beach nourishment project would have included adding sand at the water’s edge for Phase 2 of the trail project, said O’Reilly.
Now, “ideally, the sand will replenish itself in front of the new sea wall naturally,” said O’Reilly. When that fills in, “we’ll look at some methodology to have access to the sand area.”
The official beach in Gulfport is on the west side of the Casino, said Ward 2 Councilmember Christine Brown who represents the waterfront area.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Brown. “I think it’s going to be a really nice addition to the waterfront. We’re trying to take all the great improvements we did at the west end and make it a flowing kind of experience.”
Phase 2 is the culmination of an overall waterfront trail project that began in July 2016 with Phase 1 that now includes a paved pedestrian walkway with a seating wall, a brick paver parking area for 108 vehicles –52 of which are for residents who display a decal – new lighting and landscaping. Phase 1 was officially opened on Sunday, November 6, 2016 with a ribbon cutting.
The Phase 2 area “is going to be different than what we’re used to,” said Brown. “Mr. O’Reilly and I talked about ways to enhance the waterfront when I first got on council 4-1/2 years ago. I am so sure it’s going to be an improvement and such a nice experience. It’s something that everybody can enjoy and not just the select few who play tennis or skateboard. It’s for the whole community.”
View additional construction plan details here.