200-year-old oak tree in Ocean Springs causing issues

A 200-year-old live oak tree in Ocean Springs is causing controversy. The tree is presenting safety concerns leaving many stumped on whether the tree should be cut down. This morning, an arborist from New Orleans weighed in the debate.

“Leave it. Absolutely 100 percent don’t cut it down. It’s just crazy what is happening to this tree that’s been here for 200 years.” For Ocean Springs resident Bob Smith, cutting down the oak tree at Fort Maurepas Park near Front Beach is absurd considering the big trees right down the road. “Everybody recognizes that if a tree falls, it’s a danger to whoever is under the tree. All the tees on Washington Avenue would crush somebody if they fall, but you don’t go whacking down trees in case they fall one day.”

John Benton, an arborist for Bayou Tree Service, has a different view. He determined the city could place a brace on the tree and monitor it, but because of its location on the potential risk is too great. “From a professional standpoint, my recommendation would have to be removal because of the liability over a playground. It’s a public area. There’s a lot of potential for problems.”

The tree itself is in good health, but structurally has some issues like it’s sharp lean that could pull it down, also most of the trees support roots are dead. Benton’s verdict is disheartening to many.  Former City Arborist David Minkler said, “It’s sad because it’s the largest city owned tree. Putting a playground under your oldest, largest tree is just a horrible idea.”

“To me, the risk in this case is minimal and the value of the tree is maximum.”

Although the city hasn’t officially decided what will be done to the live oak, moving forward they’re planning on allocating about $40,000 to $50,000 to tree care. City Clerk Pattie Gaston said, “At this point, I feel like this tree would have to come down and hopefully we can turn it around and start turning around this year and saving the trees.”

Categories: Jackson County, Local News