JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - When Hurricane Katrina reduced the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center at Point Cadet to a pile of rubble, many thought it would never return.
A celebration on Wednesday wiped those doubts away for good. Dozens of people gathered to break ground on a new $16.2 million Marine Education Center at Cedar Point facility in Jackson County where visitors can take a boat or kayak tour along Davis Bayou.
"Here we have the natural environment to take people out and so you'll see an animal in its natural habitat, and we think that will enhance people's appreciation and the understanding for the value of those organisms," said Marine Education Center Director Chris Snyder.
"This is an example of what the seafood industry can mean, the research and development that goes on. This is restoring it forward. This center will be one that will be the envy of all the world," said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
The center will feature 12 structures on about 100 acres of land. Those buildings include a public exhibit hall, six classrooms and a waterfront pavilion, connected by trails and walkways. Instead of viewing wildlife in tanks and aquariums, the public can see them up-close in their natural environment.
"This facility will provide an immersion experience for participants in a unique, beautiful setting, and will include features for incredible teaching and research opportunities," said University of Southern Mississippi President Dr. Rodney Bennett.
"I believe this facility will serve us well, and will generate new ideas and solutions to coastal challenges. It will inspire the next generation of marine scientists and teachers to become better stewards of this magnificent resource," said DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller.
The celebration comes exactly ten years after Katrina tore apart the former center in Biloxi.
"This Marine Education Center will be another example of our success, our determination, your resilience," said Gov. Bryant.
FEMA and the DMR funded the project, it should be complete by December 2016 or early 2017.