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Today is May 23, 2022

Conservation education comes to life in Moss Point

By Steven Ward

Conservation education comes to life in Moss Point

There are 41 educational facilities operated nationwide by the National Audubon Society, and one of them is located on 10 acres in downtown Moss Point.

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is situated on Rhodes Bayou on a historic site where a trolly ran during the late 1800s and early 1900s, said Susan Stachowski, the center’s manager.

The center is described as an educational gateway to exploring nature and bayou habitats by offering educational programming for school groups. The center also features local nature themes, a step back in time with the historic trolley ticket booth and Scout Hut, and hands-on learning opportunities.

Visitors can discover the outdoors on the nature trails, bayou pier, bird feeders, critter tanks, an art gallery, and renting kayaks.

In 1974, more than 35,000 acres of land along the Pascagoula was preserved for the public. The landmark preservation, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy, has protected a unique ecosystem, and grown to the current 70,000 acres that keep the largest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States one of the wildest. Wildlife abounds in the Pascagoula River — including some species that are endemic or found nowhere else on the planet.

Stachowski said the sounds of nature at the center are her favorite part of what the area offers.

“I enjoy being outside at the center listening to the sounds of nature. Squirrels jumping through the trees, birds of all types calling and the sounds of the fish jumping in the water. It is amazing that I-10 and Hwy 613 are visible from the center, but it feels like we are in the middle of nowhere,” Stachowski said.

She said guests tell her that they enjoy bird watching, seeing owls and cardinals nesting, and native plants blooming.

Stachowski described the center as an outdoor laboratory where conservation education comes to life.

Although the center is owned by the National Audubon Society, it is designed to be financially self-sustaining. Revenue sources come from renting the grounds and buildings for weddings, receptions, parties, and corporate events, Stachowski said.

“The center also has a gift shop that features nature-based items that are unique to the area, and we rent kayaks and a pedal boat for enjoyment on the bayou and river. Our art gallery provides local artists a place to exhibit work and offers guests the opportunity to purchase,” Stachowski said.

Other than those revenue streams, the center depends on donations from area business, industry, and residents. Donations start as low as $30 for memberships and go up to $25,000 for corporate sponsorships.

Volunteers are a vital part of the center’s success, she said.

“We have volunteers who simply provide minnows to feed the snakes, water plants, work with customer service, assist with lawn care and maintenance, assist with educational field trips and some who work festivals and special events. We are always looking for new volunteers,” Stachowski said.  

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