The woods, the walking trails, the marsh, the scenic vistas, the fishing and the camping at the Davis Bayou Visitors Center lures locals and tourists to the Mississippi headquarters of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The Ocean Springs center was heavily damaged as 4 feet of water from Hurricane Katrina poured through the popular attraction.
"We are estimating $700,000 to $800,000 damage to the center," said Jerry Eubanks, superintendent of Gulf Islands. "We expect to get the funding for restoration but it has to go through Congress."
The visitors center, which has a gift shop, interesting art and places to meet, was gutted and the offices will have to be replaced.
"The center is open temporarily in a double-wide trailer," said Gail Bishop, Gulf Island's chief of educational services. "We have video programs, books, a little auditorium and even bathrooms."
Earth Day, a long-time popular annual event at Davis Bayou, is planned for April 22 as usual.
The center has been host in past years to almost 4,000 students each year for curriculum-based programs. Its value in both tourism and education has been praised.
Eubanks said fire crews helped clean out all the downed trees. The hard-hit camping area now has 47 trailers at the request of FEMA so it is not open to campers.
"We kept five sites for volunteers," Eubanks said.
The barrier islands, an important element of this National Park, were extensively damaged, including the loss of structures.
Because of its popularity, the temporary Davis Bayou center is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
"Then," said District Ranger Robert Harris, "the gates are locked,"
- GARY HOLLAND