From one resort area to another … | VailDaily.com

From one resort area to another …

J.K. Perry

Bret Hartman/Vail DailyEagle Valley Middle School students Chris Eaton, 12, left, Zeth Ramsay, 12, middle, and Yoana Trifonova, 13, sit in a heap of school supplies for schools in Gulf Port, Miss., that were effected by Hurricane Katrina. EVMS eighth grades class bought the supplies with money they raised for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

EAGLE COUNTY – Call it a helping hand from one resort area to another after the tourist economy and government of Gulfport, Miss. were devastated by Hurricane Katrina – Eagle County is preparing to help.Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone is planning to personally deliver a truck-load of supplies to the stricken area.”This is all of a sudden bigger than I thought it would be, and I’m humbled,” Gulfport Councilman Brian Carriere said. “I’m humbled by the extent Eagle County is helping – and their hospitality.”

County officials are asking citizens and organizations to fill a list of items made by Gulfport officials – mostly office supplies – to get the government and city running again. All but one government building was destroyed or nearly destroyed by the hurricane.The project – organized by the county, former Gulfport resident Melissa Lally and others – is dubbed “Eagle County Relief for Gulfport.” Items on the list include file cabinets, computers and other supplies. The goal is to fill the list by Oct. 7, and Stone plans to drive a truck loaded with the supplies to Gulfport Oct. 8 or 9. Organizers are working to make donations tax deductible.Other Eagle County/Gulfport pairings include the local 4-H helping its Mississippi counterpart and a future Web site for county families to connect with, and help, Gulfport families.

Eighth graders from Eagle Valley Middle School are also pitching in. Students raised funds to buy supplies for Gulfport area schools. In conjunction with a donation drive at the Avon firehouse, volunteers will be collecting items on the Gulfport list from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.Why Gulfport?The tourist-heavy coastal area of Gulfport, about a half-mile wide and eight miles long, was about 90 percent destroyed by flooding and winds, Carriere said.

“There’s nothing there or nothing that can be salvaged,” he said. “That is why many people have equated it to a war zone.”North of the coast, Gulfport is looking more like a city, with electricity and traffic lights replaced, Carriere said. Still, piles of furniture, sheet rock and other debris litter the streets. Stone said Eagle County helping Gulfport makes sense in that the two areas have a similar tourism-based economy.If a disaster happened here – Stone recalls the June 2003 Interstate 70 sinkhole, although on a smaller scale compared to Gulfport – it could shut down Vail Mountain and the local economy. Were something like that to happen, Eagle County would be looking for the kind of outside help it’s now extending to Gulfport.

“Brian (Carriere) and I are both very concerned that we get the heart of that area running again so the heart can help the extremities of the body,” Stone said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or jkperry@vaildaily.com.