BSL Residents and officials celebrated the highly anticipated completion newly-renovated Depot grounds just a day before a scheduled event at the venue.
- by Lisa Monti
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The new features on the beautiful, shady grounds of the Historic Depot were officially unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 5, one day before the first event was held in the popular park. City officials anticipate many more events will be held around the Depot now that the grounds have several new additions. When AMTRAK service is restored, the area will also play host to train travelers.
Residents driving, biking or walking past the Depot and duck pond have been keeping a close eye as the renovations took shape ahead of the grounds reopening. Councilman Jeffrey Reed, whose ward includes the Depot District, has been especially involved in the project, which he said will benefit the entire city.
Reed said that early in the project, the city closed off the portion of Kellar Street that ran between the Community Center and the Depot grounds. That increased the green space and made room for a small pavilion to be used for weddings and other outdoor ceremonies, he said. The Community Center already is a go-to venue for wedding receptions, fundraisers and other celebrations.
Another small pavilion has been built for outdoor events along with a large stage for performances. Reed also said a flagpole has been added in front of the Depot and lighting now illuminates the old trees on the ground. “It looks beautiful at night,” Reed said.
In addition, restrooms have been built on the grounds for the first time.
All of the improvements make the Depot grounds even more attractive for residents and visitors to enjoy, and Reed said there is more to come.
“This is just the first phase,” he said, noting that the completed work was paid for by a $1.5 million grant the city received from the BP oil spill settlement funds.
The second phase includes renovations to the Depot itself, which was built around 1928.
The interior of the building will get fresh paint and repairs, and the outside will be repainted as well. The same color will be used on the new pavilions and restrooms, Reed said. “Amtrak has started putting up their awnings and staging area near the train tracks and signage on five corners around the area,” he said.
As soon as Amtrak and CSX can work out a deal, the second phase of work will get underway. Reed said, “Funding is already in place.”
The first event to take place on the newly refurbished grounds was Mopar Day in da Bay, part of Cruisin’ the Coast’s celebration of classic cars. Large crowds are expected into the weekend, and many will visit the Depot area as part of the event.
Reed said that after Katrina, city officials wanted to make Bay St. Louis a walking community along with its golf carts. He said the improvements at the Depot and new signage will encourage visitors to walk between the train station and downtown.
“We have worked hard to see this project come to fruition, and it’s really great to see,” Reed said. “This will create another attractive area in addition to downtown and will bring people to the Depot area to enjoy the scenery and visit local businesses.”
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