by Melinda Boudreaux
- this month - Take a look around town, because this spring it's going to be greener than ever!
I’m talking about the planting of grand Willow Oaks, blooming Crape Myrtles, bright Vitex. Well, they aren’t big, blooming, and colorful yet. These 45 deciduous trees are just freshly planted, thanks to Katharine Ohman, Dan Batson, the Beautification Division, and airmen from Keesler Air Force Base.
Since Hurricane Katrina, there have been numerous other beautification projects in the city, all with the help of volunteers and donations. The goal of the Beautification Division and Katharine Ohman is to “re-green” our area and in doing so, add to “its intrinsic value,” Katharine tells me. Ideally, in the long run, that intrinsic value aids tourism and economic development.
Overall, these cosmetic improvements have been positive for residents and business owners. Local antique and art dealer, Althea Boudreaux, is grateful to have two new Crape Myrtles in front of her business Something Special on 207 Main.
“Without a doubt, the addition of the Crape Myrtle trees creates an ambiance of Southern charm and warmth to the 100-year-old cottages of the 200 block,” she says.
Katharine has been a part of many steps in the process of re-greening our city and county. She, along with the Beautification Division and Chamber of Commerce, put great care into projects like this one. Katharine has personally been involved with maintaining funding by donations, planning and organization, volunteer management, and compiling reports . “I also get my hands and boots dirty on most projects,” she adds.
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Part of ensuring proper use of the donations is choosing the right vegetation to re-green our area. Katharine assures they “try to obtain native species or those that are well-suited to the area soils and climate.” Crepe Myrtles, Oaks, Magnolias, and Vitex thrive in our area.
Because these trees are expected to be large monuments on our landscape, the BSL Beautification Division also takes proper and legal precautions around roads, taking into account power lines, underground pipes, and driver sight lines.
How is Bay St. Louis able to obtain so many beautiful trees? Katharine explains, “Donations come from several sources, however chief among them is Dan Batson’s GreenForest Nursery in Perkinston, Mississippi.”
Dan is a generous contributor to our area, since 2006. He offered donations of trees and vegetation to many Gulf Coast communities after Katrina destroyed so much of the greenery.
“Bay St. Louis was almost the only one to respond, and Dan was confident that the products of his generosity would not be wasted,” Katharine says.
Small efforts like this one are certainly not wasted on Bay St. Louis. The addition of new greenery helps to replace the estimated 320 million trees along the Gulf Coast lost to Katrina, according to a study by Jeff Chambers, a Tulane University biology professor.
Thanks to the BSL Beautification Division, Katharine Ohman, Dan Batson, and the armies of volunteers from Keesler, Americorps, Habitat for Humanity, Master Gardners, the local NAACP, and so many more, our local ecosystem can breath a lot easier.