Photo | Chickasabogue Park is one many areas Mobile County plans to develop in order to enhance public access to the area’s waterfront resources. (By Jason Johnson)
The Mobile County Commission this week approved a $225,000 purchase of roughly 30 acres of land in George County, Miss., that will add to the planned footprint of its Escatawpa Hollow Campground.
The purchase, which was unanimously supported by commissioners Jan. 13, is the first time most officials recall the county purchasing land outside of Alabama, but Environmental Services Director Eddie Kerr said this tract is a perfect addition to adjacent property the county already owns.
As Lagniappe reported, the county put up $715,000 to purchase 45 acres of the formerly private Escatawpa Hollow Campground earlier this year. That purchase was paid for with oil royalties received through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). The campground is situated on the Alabama/Mississippi state line off Moffett Road, on the south side of U.S. Route 98.
The 31.7-acre addition approved this week wasn’t purchased through GOMESA, but Kerr said it was a great opportunity to continue the county’s efforts to expand public access to the waterfront.
“It will be perfectly obvious why we bought this land when you see the final property. It’s immediately adjacent to what we already own and the park will easily be able to extend and flow into these areas,” he said. “It gives us substantially more land, but also doubles the river shoreline. With this acquisition, we’ll have about a mile of shoreline all together, and that really opens up more opportunities.”
Over the past five years, the county has purchased lots of land in coastal areas to either preserve sensitive habitats or develop public areas that can provide residents with easy access to waterfront resources.
Most of the projects have been funded through federal funding streams like the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) and GOMESA. So far, more than 1,500 acres have been or will be purchased, preserved or developed in places like Lightning Point, Big Creek Lake, Chickasabogue Park and Saltaire.
Currently, Kerr and his staff in the environmental department are using GOMESA funds to develop a masterplan for the Escatawpa Hollow Campground, which, when fully developed, is expected to include amenities like a riverfront beach, access to the Escatawpa River and areas for camping, RV parking and lodging.
However, because the county has owned the campground since January and has yet to open it to the public, Kerr said his department has been expediting the first phase of the park’s development so certain sections will be available to residents for “day use.” He said Commissioner Connie Hudson, who has championed the project at Escatawpa Hollow, is pushing to get those areas open as soon as possible.
“Going further into the park will get you into where we plan to have overnight accommodations, but what we’re trying to focus on now, is just the day use — places where you can go out there and enjoy the beach, enjoy the river or maybe launch a canoe … that kind of thing,” Kerr said. “I think [the area we just approved for purchase] will most likely be set up for some type of lodging or cabins, potentially even a lodge or some type of meeting area — like a bunkhouse for scouting groups.”
Kerr didn’t offer a timetable on when the park might complete the masterplan or open.
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