Grand Bay reserve headquarters may move to Cedar Point

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A decision is expected next week on where to locate the headquarters for the Grand Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserve, one of the largest remaining coastal pine savannah in the country.

While the Pascagoula site remains the first choice for the reserves headquarters — the reserve is located southeast of the city — it could also be built at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs, said Bill Walker, director of the state Department of Marine Resources.

“We all want to build it at (the Pascagoula) site,” Walker said. “But that site is not as protected.”

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The headquarters will include a visitors center, exhibits room, walking trails and teaching space. The facility will also have an auditorium and dormitory space for visiting students and researchers, Walker said.

He said that if the department’s engineers and architects can build a structure to withstand category two hurricanes, the facility will be built at the reserve site near Pascagoula.

But there are advantages to putting the reserves headquarters at Cedar Point, he said.

There’s a chance that Institute of Higher Learning officials will direct USM to rebuild the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium at Cedar Point. The Marine Education Center, which was located at Point Cadet in Biloxi, was destroyed during Katrina.

Walker’s wife, Sharon, retired as director of the Marine Education Center in June and is working as a professor at USM.

“Both (facilities) could go at Cedar Point,” Walker said. “They have similar but different missions. Building both at the same place would allow the sharing of dormitory and cafeteria space.”

More visitors would stop by the reserves headquarters if it was located at the Cedar Point site, Walker said.

However, not everyone is on board with that proposal.

“A few think (the Cedar Point site) is not a good idea,” Walker said, including Grand Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserve officials who want the headquarters to remain near Pascagoula.

“They say you need the facility at the site, so we’re trying to do that,” Walker said. “If the engineers and architects convince me, well make every effort.”