Nature sanctuary preparing for its rebirth

By Mary Perez

MOSS POINT — Occupying a small house at a former marina with a boat still washed ashore, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center is emerging from the swamp and wetlands.

In February the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain purchased the 7.5-acre property in Moss Point, which has direct access to the Pascagoula River. The master plan shows an interpretative center and an amphitheater with seating for 150 to 200.

Beyond that, Coastal Project Director Dr. Mark LaSalle explains, wetlands will be restored and the boat slip rebuilt. McCoy River & Marsh Tours will eventually be operated at the site by “The real McCoys,” as LaSalle calls them because both McCoy brothers are Audubon Master Naturalists.

Officially the center is part of the coastal project office until September 20. That’s when the national review board for the Audubon Society considers the local application to become one of more than 30 national Audubon Centers and Audubon’s only coastal estuary on the Gulf of Mexico. “We are confident that our business plan is very good and we will be approved,” said LaSalle.

While waiting for the Audubon designation, the center is already busy. This week, teens from across the U.S. and Canada spent several days cleaning up the site’s wetlands as part of VISIONS Service Adventures. They discovered a box turtle and some tadpoles, “but mostly trash,” says group leader Lee Ciker.

Inside the center, birdhouses made by Moss Point students during Operation Backyard Recovery using recycled wood were on display. “We’ve made probably a thousand of them,” said LaSalle.

The birdhouses are temporary habitat. “Now we have to replace trees,” he noted. This spring 20,600 trees were given away, and LaSalle says 18,000 more will be on the Coast tor a fall distribution.

To go from the master plan to getting the local Audubon Center built, LaSalle said the need is to focus on raising money. “We will look at all possibilities,” he added, including government grants and corporate and private donations.

Source
Sun Herald
News Date
August 4, 2006