New Boardwalks and Tram Tours at INFINITY Science Center
- story by John Dumoulin
This month, the INFINITY Science Center opens both a 1500-foot swamp boardwalk and a seven-mile guided tram experience down the Possum Walk Trail as the four-year-old museum continues to phase in new Earth and environment content alongside its space artifacts.
The two projects are just the first of many new nature spaces and Earth science exhibits funded by BP oil spill money. Exhibits on hurricanes, carnivorous plants and wetlands are scheduled to open in late spring and midsummer, followed by a digital theater and four new permanent exhibits next year.
“If you thought we were just a space museum, boy, are you going to be surprised!” said John Wilson, INFINITY’s executive director. “There’s so much more. Sure we’re the official visitor center for NASA, but we share a similar role explaining the Earth science research and exploration conducted at Stennis by NOAA, the EPA, the U.S. Navy, the EPA, and others.
Beach to Bayou
Called the Biome Boardwalk, INFINITY's analemma-shaped, 1500-foot walkway circles over lowland grasslands and swamp and through upland forests. Interpretive signs and viewing platforms offer vistas and intimate viewing spaces, introducing guests to the unique ecosystem within the NASA/Stennis buffer zone watershed feeding into the Pearl River.
The self-guided experience offers picnic benches, a playground, butterfly gardens, and hummingbird feeding stations. Viewing binoculars allow guests close-up views of turtles, egrets and an occasional bald eagle.
This month, weather permitting, INFINITY will reseed the spaces with yellow pitcher plants, bald cypress and other indigenous plants, as Canada geese, alligators and otters return to a habitat gently disturbed by construction.
Also opening in April, INFINITY will offer for a $4 up-charge a 45-minute, seven-mile interpreted electric tram excursion starting at the western head of the Possum Walk Trail. Crossing three blended ecozones, guides explain the area’s history and indigenous wildlife as the tram travels to and from the site of Possum Walk, an all but forgotten black bedroom community of workers for the Weston Sawmill in Logtown until the mid-1900s. Guests can learn about witness trees, cogongrass, and sentinel forests, possibly sighting wild pig, deer and an occasional black snake.
“Maybe growing up here we take these woods and bayous for granted. In many respects, the trail we take people down doesn’t look much different than the backyards and parks we grew up enjoying,” said Joe Pettigrew. Joe is INFINITY’s staff master naturalist and oversees the proper interpretation of the science center’s natural spaces and living “collections.”
“But if you know what you’re looking at, if someone explains its story or gives you some insight into how it’s connected to something else, the ‘aha’ moment can be magical, especially to our youngest, budding citizen scientists,” Joe explained.