Lighthouse Park taking shape at Porter Avenue

Motorists passing the Biloxi Lighthouse are seeing the latest city park beginning to take shape.

The 5.25-acre site, just west of Porter Avenue and a stone’s throw from the Biloxi Lighthouse, represents the completion of the Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center project. It is expected to be completed in April.

The $5.2 million federally funded venture — a figure that includes land acquisition — will feature much-needed, additional parking for the Visitors Center, a nature trail, native foliage and plantings, a children’s playground, and, on the southern end, a 5,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion that is expected to be a popular setting for outdoor weddings and special events that had previously been hosted on the Visitors Center lawn.

“It’s progressing pretty well,” said architect Leigh Jaunsen, who also designed the Biloxi Visitors Center, the Biloxi Civic Center and Public Library, the waterfront park at Point Cadet, and MGM Park.

A great deal of thought went into designing the park, she said, because of its beachfront location, its proximity to the Biloxi Lighthouse, and because it was part of the Visitors Center.

“It was an interesting challenge, to create an environmentally friendly, educational site,” Jaunsen said. “It’s supposed to be part of the Visitors Center, which is a very formal, developed building, We had to think through carefully how we were going to merge these two. The site kind of worked in a way that we were able to put a pavilion on the south side, where we have a good view of the water for an event, and we have the undeveloped, low-impact portion on the north side, where we have the walking path and native foliage, which will provide a nice buffer for the nearby neighborhood.”

Some of the project was funded with Coastal Impact Assistance Program money since one of the goals is to restore what was once a bayhead swamp. Bayhead swamps are seasonally or permanently saturated or flooded areas that form at sites with broad, shallow braided drains, or along margins of creeks with little or no creek banks.

The open-air pavilion, which will accommodate upwards of 200 people, will be similar in appearance of the stately Visitors Center. Its appeal also will be its location, offering a panoramic view of the Mississippi Sound and Biloxi Lighthouse to the south, and overlooking the rolling hills and walking path of the park to the north and east.

Decorative crosswalks across Porter Avenue, using the same brick outlines as the sidewalks at the Visitors Center, will connect the two sites. New signage, mirroring the arched monument-type signs in front of the visitors center lawn, will be placed on the west side of Porter Avenue to identify Lighthouse Park.

Said Jaunsen: “This is going to be a real asset for the Visitors Center and for the city in general. It will be another great venue for outdoor events.”
See photos of the Lighthouse Park progress