Drivers can see River Park, the docks and waterfront, from U.S. 90 as they cross the Pascagoula bridge, but just try getting to it with a boat or a picnic.
Those who do use the park have to find their way on more than a mile-long maze of roads through the industrial area near Ingalls Shipbuilding. The height of the bridge and guardrails prevent direct access.
“It’s just a great place, but no one was using it,” said Mayor Dane Maxwell, who announced Thursday a $1.5 million grant appropriated by the state Legislature last session to create a new access road. It will be a combination recreation and economic development project for the city, he said.
Pascagoula has commitments for the development of a restaurant and limited retail on the peninsula that juts out into the river, Maxwell said.
“We’re even looking at some residential options out here on the east side,” he said, which together he hopes will reinvigorate the waterfront.
The park already has a Scranton Museum boat on display, a dog park, picnic pavilion, boat launches and scenic boardwalk. It also will have fuel docks and a kayak launch, he said.
This was one of the first projects he looked at when he became mayor, he said, and now that the project has funding, he’s eager to see it start in the next few months. The work will be done in conjunction with Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Phase I of the design by Neel-Schaffer engineering firm will create access from the westbound lane. After crossing the bridge on U.S. 90, drivers will continue past the park to give clearance from the bridge, take the new exit to the right and loop back to the park.
Phase II will create access eastbound, Maxwell said, with an extra-long turn lane in the median for vehicles towing boat trailers to turn onto the new access road.
State Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, said he often came to the area when he was a kid, and he sees it becoming a favorite place again, once people have better access.