Protecting the Oaks
- story by Ana Balka, photos by Ellis Anderson
Since its founding in 1971 in Ocean Springs by Ethelyn Connor for the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Mississippi’s Société des Arbres has endeavored to preserve and protect trees native to the area “which by their existence enhance the aesthetic and environmental values of the area; establish a permanent registry . . . [and] declare all trees properly registered to be indigenous natural assets possessing intrinsic value worthy of area protection."
In Hancock County, owners of live oaks may contact Shawn Prychitko of the Hancock County Historical Society for registration. In order to be truly protected, a tree must be registered with the Société des Arbres, and that process of registering with the state begins with county registration.
The Town Green
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.