Profile: Bob Brzuszek
Thirty years ago, when "environmental sustainability" was not yet a trend, visionary leaders at Mississippi State University collaborated with the L.O. Crosby family to determine the best possible use for a former strawberry farm in Picayune.
Eventually, that piece of land became the Crosby Arboretum.
Now, an internationally recognized example of forward-thinking, sustainable design, the 104-acre preserve was created to help teach the public about the beauty and importance of Gulf Coast's landscape. From the iconic, award-winning Pinecote Pavilion designed by architect Fay Jones to the Native Plant Center, it draws visitors from throughout the world.
That very special Pearl River County locale is the subject of a new book titled "The Crosby Arboretum: A Sustainable Regional Landscape." The author is Bob Brzuszek, a landscape architecture professor in the MSU Extension Service, which operates the native plant conservatory.
"The Crosby Arboretum is the vision of people who thought outside the box and took landscape architecture to a new level of understanding of how people and nature can be symbiotic," Brzuszek said. "The design of the facility, the master plan and the educational programs are all a celebration of place."
As a Louisiana State University graduate student more than 20 years ago, Brzuszek became involved with Crosby's early planning and development. After completing a master's degree thesis on proposed exhibits for the site, he was named arboretum site curator, a position he held for 13 years before joining the MSU landscape architecture faculty.
"You can still see at Crosby the remnants of roads and ditches from the extensive logging in the early 1900s and the agricultural use during the 1930s, but we are watching the land heal itself, seeing biodiversity reoccur," Brzuszek said.
He said he considers the arboretum "a testament to the fact that we can repair damaged landscapes, improve water supplies, and teach people how to take care of Mississippi's unique places."
Brzuszek also considers the arboretum to be a prime example how the 100-year-old MSU Extension Service is transitioning into its next century of service.
"The extension service is more complex than people think," he said. "It's not just about boll weevils and kudzu. It's about creating healthy communities and finding new ways to work with clients and the land to develop recreational and educational landscapes. It's about teaching children to care for the environment."
Brzuszek's passion for his work extends beyond landscape architecture to the role the Extension Service can play in showcasing Mississippi's natural heritage. "We can bring people together to talk about ideas and show them research-based advancements right here in Mississippi," he said.
Specifically, he added, the Crosby Arboretum "offers a rich example of how to celebrate our state's natural and cultural heritage through well-crafted design.
"We need to continue to find imaginative ways of expressing our strong sense of place as we move forward," he said.Writer: Keri Lewis | Photo: Megan Bean
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