City rejects Gulfport daycare owner's request to remove oak tree - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

City rejects Gulfport daycare owner's request to remove oak tree

Kid Academy owner Matt Dickens wants to remove this Live oak tree for his expansion plans, but he says the tree is declining and is a danger and liability. (Photo source: WLOX) Kid Academy owner Matt Dickens wants to remove this Live oak tree for his expansion plans, but he says the tree is declining and is a danger and liability. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The City of Gulfport has rejected a daycare owner's request to take down a live oak tree. Kid Academy on Pass Road filed the request as part of its expansion plans.

Despite being initially turned down by the city arborist, the daycare center made its case to take down the tree at the Gulfport Planning Commission's meeting on Thursday. Kid Academy said removing the tree is necessary, not only because of business growth, but also because of safety.

However, people in the nearby Handsboro community said they love their oak trees and wanted them to stay in the neighborhood.

“Growing up here was like a magic land with moss draping down with great trees to climb,” said Cathy Satchfield.

It’s a place where live oaks intertwine among residences as well as businesses that line Pass Road in the historic east Gulfport neighborhood.

“We’ve seen a lot come and go through storms and progress,” Satchfield said. “The ones that remain need to remain if at all possible.”

Kid Academy has big plans to expand into the property adjacent to the existing building. But, standing in the way is the 200-year-old live oak tree, a protected species in the City of Gulfport.

Christina Morse’s father helped write the original tree ordinance for the city years ago.

“Businesses come and go,” Morse said. “But, those trees are here before those businesses, and they’ll be here after those businesses.”

The city tree ordinance requires a tedious process to trim or take down live oak trees. The only exception is no permit is required for trees on residential property.

WLOX spoke with Kid Academy owner Matt Dickens, who said this isn’t a private property rights issue, it’s a dangerous situation.

The tree was included in the original plans, but after hiring an arborist, Dickens discovered the tree was in rapid decline because of root damage. He said it’s not only a liability, it’s also a danger to the children under his care.

Arborist Eric Nolan said the damage was caused by asphalt put down years ago by Jones Produce. Regardless, Satchfield knows the history of the tree is at stake.

“That tree was a sister tree,” Satchfield said. “We always called it the sister tree.”

Along with its sister tree, they created an arch forming a natural tunnel for traffic on Pass Rd. When Pass Rd. was widened in the 1960s, the tree on the south side was taken down.

“That sister remains there and should remain there,” Satchfield said.

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