Land Trust Group Rescues Storm Weary Oak Trees

Beyond eroded front yards on Ocean Springs' front beach are exposed roots, reaching out, almost begging for help.

Arlene Canaan is a volunteer helping the Land Trust For the Mississippi Coastal Plain, a group desperately trying to rescue trees that were damaged but not destroyed by Katrina. "Without those trees, it's really not our coast," the former Biloxi councilwoman said. Without the trees, she said, "Part of our life is missing. We've got to do everything we can to save the oaks and replant."

So Land Trust members contacted the Mississippi Forestry Commission. And it got in touch with the Home Depot Foundation. Together, they're adding new layers of soil, mulch and water to the base of struggling oak trees. The hope is that their once stately limbs can add a splash of color to a rather gray, post hurricane skyline.

DeAnn Fordham is with the Home Depot group. It donated $100,000 to help rescue the trees. "Large, mature trees like these have great emotional ties to individuals. And we just want to be a part of helping them restore these trees," she said.

The restoration project was a welcome sight for Jan Walker -- a front beach resident, and another Land Trust volunteer. "It's a dual emotion," she said. "One is the sadness of the destruction. But the hopefulness of the recovery is also there, too." Because to people like Jan Walker and Arlene Canaan, a budding tree symbolizes so much about what south Mississippi represents. "It's our heritage. We owe it to the next generation and the generation after that to keep these beautiful trees," Canaan said. "They add so much."

Two hundred Jackson County oak trees have already had top soil, mulch and water packed around their root systems. Another 300 trees in Harrison and Hancock Counties are supposed to be nurtured back to life.