USEPA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recognized Mississippi State University’s Gulf Community Design Studio (GCCDS) in Biloxi, Miss. with a First Place 2015 Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/Non-Profit Category. The awards ceremony was July 30th at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas.

In 2009, GCCDS worked to produce neighborhood plans for East Biloxi, Miss., a community still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. From a list of concerns, residents responded positively to suggestions to improve a degraded inner-city bayou. GCCDS began its work to restore Bayou Auguste by engaging elementary student in environmental education activities, and later expanded outreach to a wider audience of residents. The goals of the project were to restore and expand the natural habitat, to make a beautiful natural place free of invasive species and litter, to provide public access and learning opportunities, and to increase local environmental stewardship.

GCCDS worked in partnership with other organizations to transform Bayou Auguste into a neighborhood nature park. GCCDS secured several grants and led a partnership with the City of Biloxi, the Biloxi Housing Authority, Biloxi Public Schools, and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. The City provided assistance to remove fill material and a retaining wall and to reshape the stream bank. Hundreds of students and volunteers planted native plant species along the upland habitats of Bayou Auguste that reduce erosion and filter stormwater runoff and improve water quality.