Protecting the Oaks
Find out how to register your live oak trees - and how it helps protect them for future generations of Hancock County residents.
- story by Ana Balka, photos by Ellis Anderson
When you contact the county at the link listed below, Shawn will come to measure and document your tree or trees, register it with the Hancock County Historical Society, and give you the paperwork to register with the state. Currently there are approximately 425 live oaks registered in Hancock County. The Hancock County Historical Society site lists qualifications for registration here. Lately, Shawn reports, there have been a couple of updates to the registration process.
First, there is now recognition for undersized live oaks. If you have a tree that is under the 113-inch circumference qualification for registration with the state, but you still want to recognize and name it, you may register it with Hancock County. The tree’s information will be kept in Historical Society records.
Second, the Historical Society is updating information on trees that were on the records from before Hurricane Katrina. The society wants to know if these trees still stand, and at the owner’s request will remeasure trees, update records, provide owners with new documentation, and provide paperwork for registration with the Société des Arbres. Contact the society as well if your tree had a plaque that has fallen off, or if your tree is registered only with the Historical Society and not with the state.
Shawn stresses that preservation includes more than just not cutting down trees; it is also about tree maintenance. The cutting of major limbs can expose trees to parasites, or weaken and make them more vulnerable to leaning and eventually falling in heavy winds. She also notes that shaving limbs from one side of a tree to make room for a structure that is too close can render a tree unbalanced. “With increased development, we are often seeing building expansion or construction of new structures too close to existing trees,” Shawn says.
Tree roots are also vulnerable, says Shawn. “Heavy equipment travels over the root system in the construction process, and extra fill dirt gets shoved on top of exposed roots that have been happily existing there,” she says. Some trees, she says, survived Katrina only to die from suffocation or root damage due to fill dirt and excessive machinery traffic during reconstruction.
Bay St. Louis’s tree ordinance requires a permit to cut or prune any limbs from live oaks and magnolias whether they are registered or not. To get a permit for the cutting or pruning of these trees, residents may go to the Building Department at City Hall, pay a $50 fee, and get an appointment for the city arborist to come to the site for tree inspection.
The Historical Society and Shawn Prychitko recommend contacting email@example.com with questions or concerns about construction in the vicinity of live oaks, and to find out how to assist in promoting greater live oak protection in Hancock County.