MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - When it opened two and a half year ago, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center showed a great deal of promise for the world of ecotourism. That promise has been fulfilled.
The $2.5 million center offers spectacular views and wondrous exhibits with more coming soon. Director Mark LaSalle explains some of the new additions.
"We'll have a replica of the ticket booth, that used to service the trolley line that passed through this property and connected Pascagoula and Moss Point between 1900 and 1925," said LaSalle. "So, we're using this as cultural history."
He explains how history means success at the entrance.
"We have people from the mid-west and other places coming down and enjoying the great weather and visiting here and other places across the Coast. The doors have been swinging open quite a bit."
Coming in those doors are visitors like Cyan James from Arlington, VA.
"I come here a lot when I can just to walk the trails and enjoy seeing the birds at different times of the year," said James. "So, for me, it's an uplifting place."
According to LaSalle, the big attraction is what's outside of the building.
"This is our world, our natural world," LaSalle explained. "This is downtown Moss Point, and the birds and the wildlife are here just like our Great Horned Owl behind us."
With all the things to see and touch, education is still the primary mission for program manager Erin Parker.
"We do school programming, field trips during the school year, summer camps during the summer, lots of adult classes from master naturalists to a native plant gardening class," said Parker. "So, really connecting everyone of any age to the great outdoors."
Even with all the existing and new exhibits, the educational programs that are constantly underway, and the increased visitation that is going on at the Audubon Center, residents still need to get the word out about what this facility has to offer. Outreach manager Andrea Belcher oversees that.
"We are using Facebook and social media. We also have an Instagram account. We're working with local magazines as well as our newsletter," Belcher said.
The Audubon Center is now a must-see on the Coast. Right now, the center is averaging about 10,000 visitors a year, up significantly from the first year of operation. About half of those visitors are from out of town.