Things are looking a lot clearer at Clower now.
Clower-Thornton Nature Trail, on Railroad Avenue in Gulfport, is undergoing a transformation. It is part of the Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail and is popular with spring and fall migrant birds because it is a wild area close to the water. More than 200 species have been recorded here, according to the trail’s website.
But for years, the only thing to greet birders has been a dilapidated sign, an even more dilapidated wooden walkway into the trail, and a gravel parking area.
Now a new sign marks progress. An 8-foot-wide asphalt path is being installed as well as a 16-foot-by-16-foot wooden pavilion that residents will be able to use for birthday parties and other events.
The asphalt path will reach to the Katie Patterson Booth Community Center at 501 26th St., just off Hewes Avenue, and create a triangular loop back to the trail and the existing boardwalk.
In addition, the trail will extend south under the railroad and follow the east side of Coffee Creek, along the edge of Centennial Plaza and a newly created pond, or weir. A spillway just north of the Second Street bridge, which leads into Centennial Plaza, also has been added. From there, the creek eventually spills into the Sound.
That improvements are thanks to a Katrina Community Development Block Grant for drainage of the nearby Coffee Creek, said Andy Phelan, project manager and associate principal owner at Pickering Firm, the firm awarded the contract. Christian Preus is the landscape architect.
Coffee Creek runs through the area and has flooding issues.
“This started as a drainage project,” Phelan said. “The project’s genesis is in widening the channel, smoothing the bottom of the creek and cleaning debris while “staying as natural as possible.”
“It started this way and has morphed into the recreational component,” he said.
The work is bringing Coffee Creek to a cleaner condition to withstand more storms.
“It’s not really a levee, but for lack of another word, we can say we’re raising the top of the levee to be above the 25-year storm level,” Phelan said. Larger culverts also will help water flow.
Phelan hopes the project will be “completed by the end of the year.” The pond, he said, is 90 percent completed and the spillway is 95 percent completed.