For 27 years, the city of Biloxi has been designated a Tree City by the National Arbor Foundation. The city has a tough tree ordinance in place that protects several species of trees. But now, some downtown business owners are questioning the city's decision to cut down 28 Arizona Ash trees in the downtown area.
To the average person, the downtown trees look healthy and vibrant. But a closer look shows problems. That's the word from city Arborist Eric Nolan.
"They have major stem decay, they have hallows, they have structural stem problems that make them a problem with stem failure and tree failure," Nolan explained.
Because of that, some have already been cut down. Nolan said the trees could be a threat.
"Looks and structure are two different things. So, do I want to cut down 28 trees? No. But we do it for the health and safety of the public," Nolan said.
Business owners like Terese Collins question the logic of cutting down so many trees.
"Immediately, our problem right now is these trees are not gone. Let's see if we can save any of them. And 28 seems to be a massive number of trees to take down at one time," Collins said.
Some of the downtown business owners we talked to are not only concerned that the trees are being cut down, but that replacement trees are not being replanted, according to the city's own tree ordinance. They say it's a classic case of 'Do as I say, but not as I do.'
"The city should be consistent," Collins said. "If the rule is good for citizens, it should be good be good for the city."
Despite the controversy, administration officials at city hall agree the trees have to go.
"We do back his decision," Director of Administration David Staehling said. "We don't take it lightly when it comes to cutting trees. Our tree ordinance is very important to us."
Staehling did say that despite the budget troubles the city is facing, he will try and come up with funding to replant at least some new trees in the downtown area.
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