Volunteers Work to Replace Oaks at Ohr O’Keefe Museum

Nine years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and destroyed many of the old oak trees that are a signature of south Mississippi. Friday, volunteers started the process of bringing these trees back to the Coast.

World renowned architect, Frank Gehry, designed the Ohr O’Keefe Museum in 2004 to "dance" among the many live oaks on its four acre plot. Mother Nature uprooted those plans in 2005. Danielle Crowder, a Mississippi Power volunteer, says, "They are a very big part of this facility. There is a great canopy of them and some of them were lost in Hurricane Katrina."

Thanks to the helping hands of volunteers from Mississippi Power and others involved with United Way’s Day of Caring, some of those trees are were replaced and planted on the museum grounds Friday. Members of the Audubon Society lent their expertise to help make sure the saplings thrive. Mark Lasalle, Director of Pascagoula River Audubon Center, says, "A lot of our mission is with birds and wildlife and habitats that support birds and wildlife, so we’re out here helping to make sure the trees were planted correctly to give them a good jump start."

The five oaks planted Friday are the first of 18 that will be planted to replace the ones lost during Katrina. Once finished, the Ohr O’Keefe Museum will truly dance among the oaks. Stephen Schruff, Biloxi District Manager of Mississippi Power, says, "We chose this project at the Ohr O’Keefe Museum to plant these live oaks that were lost during Katrina so that they could be enjoyed for many generations to come."

Live oaks are an icon in south Mississippi and a symbol of longevity. Lasalle also says, "Some of these trees are five to seven hundred years old. So really what we’re doing is replanting the next generation of oaks, so it’s a matter of replenishing what we lost and making sure this forest, this urban forest is continued for many years."

Even though it will take some time for the trees to grow, volunteers are still happy to help. Crowder closes, “We may not be around to see them as big and beautiful as these are right now, but it’s a start and it’s a step in the right direction to get those trees back to where they were."

All they need is water, south Mississippi sun, a little love, and time to grow.

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