A commercial charter boat service will make round trips to the island from the mainland once the construction--set to begin this summer--is complete.
Deer Island is a slender, sandy four-mile long uninhabited island in Mississippi Sound about a mile south of Casino Row and U.S. 90 in Biloxi, MS. The island is a great blue heron rookery and is used by brown pelicans and cormorants as a wintering habitat. It is home to osprey, loggerhead turtles and in the marsh flanking a tidal creek at the island's eastern end American alligators lurk.
The MSOS administers and supervises the state's Public Trust Tidelands which include Deer Island. The island was purchased over a decade ago when there were concerns it might be developed into a casino resort. There has been no development on the island, discovered in 1699, in more than 70 years.
The island is popular with small boaters seeking solitude, many making the short crossing to the deserted island's sandy beaches from Biloxi or Ocean Springs in canoes and kayaks. Some come to the island to view the island's rich bird life, others to primitive camp. At one point the island is just a third of a mile from busy mainland Biloxi.
Public officials tout the pier, restrooms, snack bar and shuttles as a way of providing access to the island for those who do not have boats.
"All Mississippians should have access to our public lands, regardless if they have a boat," said Mississippi Secretary of State, Delbert Hoseman said in the press release announcing the project.
The $360,000 project was recently approved by the US Corp of Engineers. Funding will come from state Tideland Funds, allocated by the Coast delegation of the Mississippi Legislature.
A shuttle to the island could boost the Boloxi area as an eco-tourism destination, encouraging visitors to the Gulf Coast to stay another day, said Jamie Miller, executive director for the state's Department of Marine Resources.
Natural barriers will limit visitors without boats of their own to the broad sand beaches that line the western and southern parts of the island. Along much of the island's northshore erosion at the water's edge has exposed extensive mangrove-like root systems, making walking there difficult. To the east is a broad salt water marsh. A 30-foot storm surge from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, inundated the island with saltwater killing what was already a thin stand of pine trees. Between the salt marsh to the southeast and the broad beach wrapping around the island's western tip, much of the island's interior is covered with prickly saw palmetto and sticker bushes preventing crossing the island on foot. There are no developed trails on the island.
(A comment (see below) said students from Mississippi State recently established trails on the island and that a sign about the trails is on the island's north shore across from Harrah's Casino on the mainland.)
Since Hurricana Katrina the Department of Marine Resources has completed several projects to slow or stop erosion of the island.