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The Mirror Perch Bridge and Rosen Pavilion open at the Arboretum

By Pat Drackett

Crosby Arboretum Director

We are excited to announce the opening of two new architectural features for your enjoyment at our Gum Pond Educational Exhibit, namely, the award-winning Mirror Perch Bridge and the Rosen Pavilion.

Completed in November 2020, Mirror Perch Bridge is located along the pond’s western edge and spans the headwaters inlet of the gum pond. The structure is already gathering honors, as it recently received the annual AIAMS Sambo Mockbee, Spirit of Place Award. The award is given to only one project per year by the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The design jury also granted the project the Design Honor Award, one of only four honor awards granted in 2020, and the highest award given by the organization.

The design for this unique pedestrian bridge that completes the pond loop trail was developed by Professor Hans Herrmann, Mississippi State

University School of Architecture, with assistance from his architecture students, who participated in the planning, design and installation of the bridge along with other MSU faculty and students. Prof. Herrmann said, “Our team is honored and humbled to have received these special recognitions and we thank the AIAMS and all those who helped make this effort so successful. The Mirror Perch Bridge project represents the kind of projects and practice that the MSU School of Architecture, and its graduates, are known for.”

The Rosen Memorial Pavilion is a gift to the Arboretum from the family of Yvette Rosen. The structure sits on the eastern shore of the gum pond and is accessed by a crisscrossing boardwalk extending from the bulkhead of a new pond overlook built by Terry Johnson with assistance from Arboretum volunteers. The structure was designed by Robert Poore of Native Habitats, Inc. and built by S and L Commercial Builders of Madison, Mississippi. Travel the Swamp Forest from our Arrival Journey, and upon reaching the Rosen Pavilion, take a rest on one of its built-in benches to enjoy the stunning view of the bridge spanning the pond’s inlet.

Planning toward a design for a pedestrian bridge to cross this narrow “panhandle” of the gum pond began soon after the excavation was completed in the fall of 2010. The pond and the bridge project have been the subject of multiple MSU architecture, landscape architecture and landscape construction courses.

Sixteen construction grade piles, similar to telephone poles, were used for the bridge. Fitted into a central “cradle,” they were used for two important reasons: first, for the aesthetic value, as the 35’ piles are intended to mimic the appearance of the fallen pine trees which litter the forest floor, and secondly, for structural support and durability in the harsh swampy environment. Two sets of 35’ piles were placed end to end, forming a 70’ long continuous cantilevered structure, allowing the bridge to hang above the 31’ span of water and supporting both an extremely horizontal design aesthetic while at the same time keeping materials of any type from disturbing the waters below.

Six Mississippi State University student interns, including Danielle Leclerq, an MSU architecture student from Picayune, worked hard this summer despite the pandemic, the summer heat and the unfailing humidity to help complete the final phase of construction for Mirror Perch Bridge. Two separate intern construction teams were led by our talented building and grounds manager Terry Johnson, with the skilled assistance of Arboretum volunteer Frank Jackson.

Many visitors have asked, “What is a gum pond?” Simply put, a gum pond is a semi-permanently flooded forest characterized by the main tree species being swamp black gum or tupelo gum. Other tree species found in gum ponds can include bald cypress, green ash, or black willow. We have planted over 2,000 swamp black gum (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Biflora’) into the central pond in this educational exhibit. The pond measures about a quarter of an acre, and contains interpretative signage, pathways, several smaller bridges, benches and constructed landings along the pond edges.

The area for the Arboretum’s Gum Pond Exhibit was originally identified in the site’s Master Plan, created in the 1980’s by the Crosby Arboretum’s first director, landscape architect Ed Blake, Jr. (1947-2010).

The Arboretum is open Saturday and Sunday after Christmas, December 26 and 27, and on Wednesday, December 30. We resume regular Wednesday through Sunday hours on Saturday, January 2. Join us at the 2021 Forge Day event Saturday, January 30 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pre-registration is required. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up. Cost is $5 for adults, and $2 for children. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).