MOSS POINT -- The $1.6 million Pascagoula River Audubon Center will be on a historic site right in the heart of downtown, where there once was a trolley line to the sawmills during the lumber boom early in the last century.
The site is 10 acres along Rhodes Bayou, and Wednesday the city renamed Post Office Street to Audubon Way in its honor.
Construction is expected to start within the year. The county is spending $1.1 million to raise the Dantzler Street bridge over Rhodes Bayou to allow bigger boats in and out. A Biloxi contractor, Coastal, won the bid to build it.
Center director Mark LaSalle said, "There are some cool elements."
n The grounds will be a botanical garden of native plants. The center will model how to landscape with them -- natives that are easy to care for and naturally feed birds and other wildlife.
n The central meeting room will double as an art gallery, the first on the Coast totally devoted to nature art.
n The center will have an elevated walkway putting visitors in a canopy of trees 12 feet off the ground. Along this walkway, feeders will attract birds for visitors to view.
n The west end of the building will be a huge glass wall with a vista of Rhodes Bayou and "the beautiful marsh, it's gorgeous," LaSalle said.
n The Audubon Center will be the gateway to the Pascagoula River and will stand sentry to an example of high-quality river marine habitat, LaSalle said, with a tidal marsh. It will make the whole river system more accessible, with a boat house and kayak launch.
As lagniappe, the center will have a real porch with rocking chairs, LaSalle said, "not a wimpy porch." And inside there will be a bank of aquariums displaying native fish and animals. Outside, the walkways at ground level will have "bird hides" where visitors can hide and watch.