It would be nice to say I stumbled upon B.B. Jennings Park, a fortuitous accident that led me to a natural, peaceful area just off a busy Telephone Road and Market Street intersection in Pascagoula. It would be poetic, but it would not be true. I was, in fact, directed there.
In December, the City Council agreed to match a Fish and Wildlife Department grant to create a living laboratory at the park, located on a hill on Fair Street.
“A jewel in the middle of our community” is how recreation department director Darcie Crew referred to the park.
So I set out to see for myself.
I spy a bluejay in the bush as I leave my car in an empty parking lot. The bluejay mocks me as I head across a wooden boardwalk. In his defense, it’s drizzling and there’s a light fog rolling in, but it’s warmer than it’s been in days, so I proceed.
The bridge crosses a navigable waterway that leads to open water, it's just a few hundred yards from a beautiful bayou near Krebs Lake. A couple of miles south, a paddler can enter the Mississippi Sound, and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.
The marsh itself is full of wildlife. I know this because I hear movement all around me, though I see only small birds flitting from branch to branch. I imagine something else. Alligators, foxes, coyotes. Or maybe just a squirrel. Because I don’t see what’s rustling beneath the brush, I’ll say it was a gator.
The park itself is small - just over six acres. Fallen brown and gold leaves crunch beneath my feet as a meander along a walking trail that surrounds a baseball diamond. There’s a playground, basketball court, picnic tables and park benches spread across the acreage.
I know I am viewing the park through green-tinted glasses. That waterway that wends its way to the Pascagoula River is, in truth, a drainage ditch. And a paddler would have to float under a small, low-lying railroad trestle to make it to open water.
There is debris washed up, stuck in the marsh after waters recede from multiple rainstorms. Water bottles, plastic bags, party cups.
But an eye to the future can see the potential. And city officials have that vision - a shining park on a hill that will house this planned 20,000-square-foot living laboratory to promote environmentally friendly development and construction practices.
A place where school children can learn about conservation and nature.
And a quiet sanctuary where a middle-aged newspaper editor can contemplate life. Beauty. And alligators.