With Shepard State Park in Gautier, Miss., on the list of closures, Gautier municipal leaders tabled until Dec. 18 consideration of a memorandum of understanding with the Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) that would both save the park for public use and integrate its operation into plans for the city’s future, the Mississippi Press reported.
The park, located on Pascagoula Bay along the Gulf Coast, covers 395 acres abounding with trees and wildflowers, bike and nature trails, 28 developed campsites, a bathhouse, tent camping, picnicking and an 18-hole disc golf course.
Councilman Gordon Gollott said, “If the state closes it and we don’t take it, it will revert to the ownership of an out-of-state charity.”
Mayor Tom Fortenberry wanted to take a step back and look at it more closely. “I think it is a great idea provided the cost is justified and it will be an asset to the city.”
The proposed memorandum of agreement between the city and MDWFP specifies the city would continue to operate the park as a forest reserve, public park, and a bird and wildlife sanctuary, and apply for status as a Substitute Sponsor under the Land and Water Conservation Fund grants.
On the other side, MDWFP would provide technical assistance to the city in preserving and maintaining the critical wildlife habitat and certain marine and/or estuarine ecosystems and maintain timber and timber management. Income from public use of the park would go to the city.
According to the memorandum, current operations reflect a surplus of more than $18,000. Upon execution of the agreement, existing maintenance equipment would be transferred to the city’s inventory and a state trooper who resides at the park would continue his residence there.
The property was originally conveyed to the state in December 1976, by Horace A. Shepard for use as a forest reserve, public park and wildlife sanctuary.