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Mooring field for 50 boats behind casino gains favor

By CRISTINA SILVA
Published March 28, 2007


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GULFPORT - A long-debated plan to install a mooring field in Boca Ciega Bay got the initial green light last week.

The mooring field would initially hold 50 boats behind the Gulfport Casino on Shore Boulevard. City officials estimate the increase of boaters could pump $250,000 in gross sales into downtown Gulfport and help keep afloat many businesses.

If the mooring field is eventually approved, city officials will have to figure out how to pay the tab, at least $241,000, City Manager Tom Brobeil said during a discussion of Gulfport's harbor management plan last week.

City leaders said they will soon vote on a resolution to approve the mooring field.

If it passes, the city will have to get the okay from state, county and federal officials, Brobeil said.

The announcement of the plan was welcomed by those who have fought to have a field installed since it was proposed in 2005.

"I would be willing to go along with it almost as it is," council member John "Ted" Phillips said of the proposal during the meeting.

"I can see a tremendous advantage to Gulfport by having a mooring field."

It would be divided between boaters who want to store their boat for less than 15 days, more than 15 days, and long term, Brobeil said.

In recent years, Gulfport officials significantly restricted boaters' access to the waterfront in order to combat derelict boats. Some residents have fought for the restrictions to be lifted.

"It seems a little incongruous to me that a city with the name of Gulfport that calls itself the gateway to the gulf would be likely to make a decision that would be inhospitable to people who want to come here," said Annette Mason, a South Pasadena resident and member of the Boca Ciega Yacht Club who spoke in favor of the mooring field during the meeting.

The idea is not without its critics. Some worry that maintaining the field would end up costing the city more than it would bring in.

The operating costs would most likely be triple what the city has estimated based on costs of similar-sized mooring fields in other Florida cities, like Sarasota and Vero Beach, council member Michele King said.

Some Gulfport residents also expressed concern about the environmental impact the mooring field could have on Boca Ciega Bay.

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 27, 2007, 22:46:28]


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