Jackson County

The old bridge over Old Fort Bayou is about to come down

This section of the Old Fort Bayou swing bridge, center, is crowding Jackson County facilities near the current drawbridge, far right, officials say. It will be removed for $80,000 and turned into a reef near Deer Island.
This section of the Old Fort Bayou swing bridge, center, is crowding Jackson County facilities near the current drawbridge, far right, officials say. It will be removed for $80,000 and turned into a reef near Deer Island. klnelson@sunherald.com

Jackson County is taking out what’s left of the Old Fort Bayou swing bridge.

It sits just east of the drawbridge on Washington Avenue as you’re leaving Ocean Springs, headed north.

The county administrator said it’s in the way of progress. Actually, they say it’s crowding what the county already has built along Old Fort Bayou. It sits between a fishing pier the county built on one side and a boat launch on the other.

It’s a 150-foot cement section of two-lane bridge with wooden pilings. It juts out from the north shore of the bayou at the end of the road where Mikey’s seafood restaurant sits, just outside the city.

Mark Seymour, whose engineering company will oversee removing the bridge, said he remembers when the old bridge — considerably closer to the water than the newer drawbridge — swung out to let boats pass.

He said his company is working with the state Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to turn the old bridge section into a fishing reef off Deer Island.

With all permits in place, he said they could have the section coming down in two months. The plan is to use two to three barges to haul what is estimated to be 200 tons of concrete to the island reef.

If not, they’ll wait until after boating season so as not to interfere with the popular boat launch.

The contractor will remove the pilings to four feet below the mud line, Seymour said. How they break up the bridge will be up to the contractor, he said. The project is expected to cost $80,000 in state Tidelands money allotted to Jackson County.

“This opens the area for usable space,” said Brian Fulton, Jackson County administrator. “Maybe we can add to the boat launch or add a kayak launch. It may allow boaters to get in and out better, as well.

“You really can’t use it,” he said. “It’s barricaded off.”

A little piece of history about the bridges in this vital area of access to Ocean Springs from local historian Dr. Chris Wiggins’ book, “What You Always Wanted To Know About Ocean Springs and Gautier But....”:

▪  First there was a ferry across (Old) Fort Bayou at this location. Still functioning in 1893, it cost a nickel a person. The home of the owner, a Portuguese boat captain, still exists as Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant.

▪  The first swing bridge was worn out by 1929 and replaced by the swing bridge, whose section still exists. Both opened and closed with a swinging span.

▪  The existing drawbridge was the third bridge, built in 1985.

The drawbridge is one of the last few on the Coast with a bridge tender. The others are the Interstate 110 bridge over Biloxi Bay and Wilkes Bridge (on Cowan-Lorraine Road) over the Intracoastal Waterway in Gulfport.

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