Debate unfolding in OS over Lovers Lane live oaks

Debate unfolding in OS over Lovers Lane live oaks
City building officials say the city could be held liable in the event of a fire that cannot be reached because a truck gets stuck on one of the trees. (Photo source: WLOX)
City building officials say the city could be held liable in the event of a fire that cannot be reached because a truck gets stuck on one of the trees. (Photo source: WLOX)
Fire Chief Jeff Ponson also has concerns about response times. (Photo source: WLOX)
Fire Chief Jeff Ponson also has concerns about response times. (Photo source: WLOX)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Most who live on Lovers Lane say it's beautiful. It's also very thin and lined with live oaks. Limbs hang low and tree trunks jut onto the edge of the street.

Ocean Springs Fire Chief Jeff Ponson says that makes for a dangerous situation in the event of an emergency, especially for the elevated homes on the north end of the lane.

"It impedes us to where we have to basically come to a stop with the truck and work our way around it. Then, there is also some limbs that hang low that requires us to move over to one side of the street or the other," Ponson explained.

Low clearance signs are posted, and the city conducted a study to see just how difficult it can be. Officials have suggested taking at least one tree down and trimming others.

Homeowner Dr. Joanne Calhoun doesn't agree.

"I've had a fire, and the fire engine with the ladder came to my house when I had a fire issue, and I've seen them go down the street," Calhoun recalled.

A letter from one neighbor started the debate. It questions the city's public safety response abilities. City building officials have taken notice, including Hilliard Fountain.

"Live safety is first. Liability wise, I would hate to shudder what the liability would be if an emergency vehicle cannot respond to a fire or an emergency," Fountain said.

Other neighbors, like Judy Herrington, are concerned about something else.

"I don't understand now why suddenly another oak tree is an issue. These trees have been here for hundreds of years. They are the character of the lane, as much as the character of Ocean Springs and the Coast," said Herrington.

Some residents see another side to the issue. One of them is Charlie Taylor.

"People get emotional over trees. They also get emotional over their homes. I would rather lose a tree than lose my home," Taylor said.

For now in this debate, there may be no clear winner.

A public meeting on the future of the trees is scheduled for Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at Ocean Springs City Hall.

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