Tree removal first phase of clean up at Hancock Co. state park

Published 11:54 pm Saturday, November 25, 2006

Workers will remove 8,000 fallen trees as part of the first phase of clean up at Buccaneer State Park in Hancock County.

Restoration of the Hurricane Katrina damaged park, one of the most visited in Mississippi, is expected to cost $14 million.

Most of the reconstruction should be complete in about two years, but park officials have not yet established a target date for a total reopening.

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Named for the pirates who used the area as a retreat in the 1700s, Buccaneer featured acres of campgrounds and outdoor recreation, including a Frisbee golf course and a five-acre water park, Buccaneer Bay.

Preliminary studies on a massive wave pool, built in 1978, show the pool’s concrete shell is structurally sound and can be saved.

The park restoration is planned in three phases and rebuilding the campground, bathrooms and pavilions is the state’s first objective.

“We are not at a point yet where we can say what the new designs will look like,” director Stu Rayburn said. “But the plan right now is to rebuild everything that was here before the storm.”

Once the trees are removed, the state will begin rebuilding offices and bathrooms to allow the campground to reopen.

The second phase will be rebuilding a camp store and activity building in the northern part of Buccaneer and bathrooms and showers at the water park.

The third phase will focus on the water park, repairing the wave pool and rebuilding a splash pool, children’s pool, slides and pavilions.

Mark Beason, a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said the park could likely reopen in parts once each phase is completed.

“We hope to have at least the campground area open sometime in 2007,” he said. “We are trying to get everything operational as fast as we can, but something of this magnitude takes time.”