Pascagoula park transformed into environmental living laboratory

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - You can learn about native plants and how nature can help you protect your property by walking through a newly restored park in Pascagoula. On Wednesday, city employees and scientists invited the public to see the recent improvements at B.B. Jennings Park. The park is being called a "living laboratory."

The final Magnolia trees were planted on Wednesday. Next, educational signs will go up along the park that is tucked away on Fair Street in Pascagoula.

"I'm excited about this project because this is our first phase to complete the entire master plan for B.B. Jennings Park," said Darcie Crew, Pascagoula Parks & Recreation Director.

City employees and volunteers spent five months bringing parts of the park back to its natural state. They removed about 60 invasive Popcorn trees and planted more than 200 native plants and trees to restore the stream bank. Visitors got a chance to see the changes up close.

"Well, I think it's beautiful. I'm really engaged by all the different kinds of plants and the flowers and the native habitat," said Colleen Kelly, who was visiting from California.

A walk through the park was a walk down memory lane for B.B. Jennings Jr. The six acre park was named for his late father, who was the Principal of Pascagoula Negro High School and Carver High School. He said the improvements honor his father's legacy.

"That's a great idea, great idea. It's like my father is still educating even though he's passed on. I'm so elated about the whole project," said Jennings.

The first phase also included a rain garden that absorbs excess storm water from the parking lot and filters the toxins and sediments before the water ends up in the Pascagoula River. It serves as a living lab to inspire visitors to create a rain garden right in their own backyard or business.

"Developers or homeowners can come and view what we've done here that can be done relatively inexpensive to treat storm water that's running off of your property," said Crew. "The schools will be invited to come and enjoy the area, but also to learn about things that they can do to protect their natural areas. Things as simple as litter control and taking care, being a good steward of our environment."

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center and Allen Engineering also worked on the project. The first phase was funded by a $20,000 matching grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The city is seeking grants for phase two which involves replacing the boardwalk and walking trail, and the centerpiece will be a Nature Education Center.

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