OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Stumps are all that's left of two sycamore trees that stood over downtown Ocean Springs. The sight is upsetting local businessman Larry Cosper.
"They were just by themselves not bothering anybody and all of a sudden they were on the ground," Cosper said. "Probably about a 25, 30, 40-year-old tree."
Cosper was especially concerned because he believes the trees are protected by city law.
"It's a sad state of affairs when the city cuts trees of this size on city property," Cosper said.
Cosper is correct. Sycamores are included in the city's tree protection ordinance. The ordinance prevents certain tree species of certain sizes from being removed from private property without a permit. Other trees included are Live Oaks, Cypress, Magnolia and Cedar trees.
"It just seems like there's a double standard there," Cosper said. "If the citizens can't do it, the city should be an advocate of not doing it."
City officials told WLOX they followed the rules. They said the sycamores needed to come down to make way for another project, the long-awaited Streetscape project in downtown Ocean Springs. The project, including the removal of the trees, was approved by the Board of Aldermen.
City Planning Director Eric Meyer said, "We always regret when we remove a tree, but these trees will be replaced by the planting of approximately 70 trees, varying in heights of 15 and 35 feet tall, as part of the Streetscape plan."
Several of those will go right where the Sycamores were, by the Depot, which houses the Chamber of Commerce. Up to eight Live Oaks, which are also protected under city law, will be moved to the area, as part of a grand-scale parking lot improvement.
The city said before they picked up their saws, they acquired proper permits.
Mayor Connie Moran said because the Sycamores are protected, their removal had to be approved by a tree committee. She said approval is also possible for private property owners in Ocean Springs.
Cosper said he hopes the city will hold back on approving removal of any more protected trees.
"How can you tell a man that he cannot cut down a Sycamore tree on his property now when they do it?" Cosper asked.