The new kayak launch at the county’s Ocean Springs Harbor is a double, which means it can launch a kayak on either side of the dock.
It has 80 feet of floating dock, where motor boats can pull up, tie off and be unloaded. At the end are the launches — beds that hold the kayaks, with rollers for sliding them into the water.
The launch closest to the county’s community pier — at the east end of Front Beach in Ocean Springs — is handicapped accessible, which means it has a seat designed to let a person transfer from a wheelchair and slide across onto a kayak.
It also has hand rails for getting on and off a kayak.
The launch extends perpendicular to the last or southernmost boat launch pier at the harbor and runs parallel to the community pier.
Engineer Ned Hogg with Seymour Engineering was checking out the gangway that leads to the launch Wednesday.
It’s about 50 feet of aluminum ramp that gently slopes to and connects with the floating dock — all wheelchair accessible.
The dock is moored to four major cement pilings that hold it in place while still allowing it to move up and down with the tide. In case of a storm, it can be unhooked and then stowed under the gangway, Hogg said. Jackson County crews built the pilings.
The gangway also comes with a special crane that allows workers to maneuver it to its storage location.
Mayor Connie Moran said it has taken her eight years to get the city’s first kayak launch.
Launches have been included in conceptual designs for outdoor recreation areas since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, she said. All the while, the popularity of kayaking and paddleboarding has been increasing in the city. People want an easy route to the open water, she said.
One launch had been proposed for the Inner Harbor Park and one along the Old Fort Bayou Blueway on property now owned by the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, but neither succeeded. Commercial fishermen worried an Inner Harbor launch would be unsafe for kayakers with boat traffic in and out of the harbor.
The Board of Aldermen voted to transfer Tidelands money from the Old Fort Bayou Blueway launch to the Harbor Improvement Project.
“Fortunately, we found an opportunity to work with Jackson County and the Harbor Commission to fund the launch with the remaining Coastal Impact Assistance Program grant funds,” Moran said. “It’s been a long time coming, but it will accommodate multi-users: kayaks, paddleboards and easy loading and unloading for boaters.”
Alderman Chic Cody, who also serves on the Harbor Commission, said he was pleased to offer the service that allows kayakers a quick way to the Mississippi Sound.
The cost was about $140,000.