Harrison County

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center branching out - outdoors, that is

GULFPORT -- The award-winning Lynn Meadows Discovery Center for Children is building an outdoor wonderland.

Motorists on U.S. 90 might already have noticed the shoo-fly that wraps around three Live oaks. Distinct play areas will go on the 1.5 acres bought with Coastal Impact Assistance Program money, which the government collects from oil and gas leases and distributes to oil-producing states.

The project, which will cost $1.2 million with materials, construction and supplies, should be completed in June, Executive Director Cindy DeFrances said.

The new acreage gives the original 6-acre museum beach frontage, especially important because it will finally allow the center to have a sign visible from U.S. 90. Electricity has been installed on the property, so the sign is lit up at night.

"We've never had a sign before to be able to direct people to Lynn Meadows," DeFrances said. "Our landmark has always been, 'Go to the Waffle House and turn.' "

The sign is only the beginning. The entrance and grounds are being landscaped with native plants.

Here is a rundown of the outdoor features the space will have, designed for play and education:

n A weather station with all types of instruments, including a wind sock, thermometer and rain gauge.

n An music garden with oversized, working instruments made of metal and other materials, and planted in the ground.

n An art area with slate attached to a wood fence-type structure; children can draw on the slate with large brushes dipped in buckets of water, then start a new artwork when the first dries and disappears.

n A "tree cookie" playground with large, round moveable pieces of wood where the possibilities will be limited only by a child's imagination.

"It will just be a creative opportunity to play outside," DeFrances said.

She said LMDC will offer outdoor cooking classes with simple foods such as Jell-O, and performances by the museum's WINGS performing arts group.

DeFrances said Christian Preus of Ocean Springs, a landscape architect, is overseeing the project and WDCD Construction of Ocean Springs is doing the work.