Boardwalk offers views of beach and history

A ribbon will be cut this week to dedicate the West Biloxi Boardwalk and those walking the half-mile of Phase 1 of the project will discover it’s much more than a pathway connecting rows of restaurants and visitor-related attractions between Veterans and Rodenberg avenues.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the foot of Rodenberg, south of Sharkheads gift shop. It’s a public ceremony and among those invited by city and county leaders are representatives of the Secretary of State’s office, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and local legislators.

The boardwalk is the first phase of Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich’s vision to see boardwalks constructed to connect existing boardwalks from West Biloxi to Point Cadet and around the tip of Point Cadet to Back Bay. Harrison County Supervisor Beverly Martin helped steer $300,000 in county Tidelands funds to the million-dollar-plus project in west Biloxi. The city’s share was more than $700,000.

Said Gilich: “We appreciate the cooperation from our state legislators, from the Secretary of State and Department of Marine Resources and from the Harrison County Board of Supervisors on getting this first phase of the boardwalk out of the ground and ready for use.”

The boardwalks are designed to help the public and visitors engage with the beach and the waterfront, and to create a synergy among the dozen or so restaurants and businesses south of U.S. 90 in that area.

The West Biloxi Boardwalk, not unlike those in the planning stages, also uses eye-appealing, informative kiosks along its route to tell the history of the community.

Two of the most interesting items from the 10 West Biloxi kiosks: a handwritten letter from future President Harry S. Truman to his wife, Bess, and daughter, Margaret, about his observations of the Mississippi Gulf Coast beachfront after a drive along U.S. 90 in 1941.

The West Biloxi kiosks also commemorate the Native Guard, the African-American troops that were the garrison on Ship Island during the Civil War. In fact, also referenced on the kiosks is Natasha Tretheway, the U.S. Poet Laureate from Mississippi, who is African American and won the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry volume “Native Guard.”

Information for the kiosks was researched by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; Ed Ott of the city’s Engineering Department; C. Paige Gutierrez, Ph.D., longtime Biloxi cultural anthropologist, and city economic counsel and former Mayor Gerald Blessey. The graphics on the kiosks were designed by Robin Stephens Lund of The Ad Group in Biloxi.

On the kiosks you’ll also find:

— Background on the marine life living off the beachfront – speckled and white trout, redfish, blue crabs, oysters, shrimp, menhaden, sea turtles, and, course, catfish and croaker.

— Descriptions of the shore birds – namely least terns, brown pelicans and black skimmers – that frequent the beachfront.

— Information about the importance of sand dunes and efforts to maintain the beach along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, billed as the longest man-made beach in the world. 

There also are kiosks that tell the story of the barrier islands and tout the pristine beaches and Civil War-era fort on Ship Island.
See your invitation to the boardwalk ceremony
Photo gallery: Dozens of images of the boardwalk
Photo gallery: See the educational kiosks
Video: See the Point Cadet Boardwalk progress