The Mayor and Board of Alderman have selected David Minkler to be the City's first arborist. His yearlong tenure starts Monday, January 29, and is entirely paid for by a grant from the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
A native of Pascagoula, Mr. Minkler stated, "I've always appreciated the trees in Ocean Springs, and the live oaks in downtown are priceless."
Angela Mohar, Assistant Director of City Planning, says that one reason he has been hired is to help save these oaks.
"Everyone knows how valuable the trees on Washington Avenue are, but they are taken for granted and I don't think people realize what steps should be taken to ensure their longevity."
Along with caring for the famous live oaks, Minkler will be working with both private property owners and developers to identify and protect valuable trees.
The tree ordinance in Ocean Springs is very stringent, so he will work with builders to educate them on which trees are shielded by law. He will also monitor building sites to answer any questions crews may have as to how to best work around protected trees.
Likewise he will work closely with the Ocean Springs Tree Committee, as well as residents to offer advice regarding trees on their property. As a result of the hurricane, many homeowners have beloved trees that sustained wind or salt water damage, both protected and non-protected species.
"I welcome citizen involvement with my work and hope to educate people on how to save trees," said Minker.
He added that people should not despair about damage to trees by Katrina.
"Plenty of things can be done-each tree is a different case."
Minkler also hopes to work with city grant writers to find other sources of funding for special projects.
"There are many possible resources for helping the trees recover."
It was Hurricane Katrina that brought Minkler back to Mississippi. He lived for twenty-three years in California where he was a licensed Landscape Contractor and arborist, certified by the International Society of Arboriculture in 1997. Minkler is also a Master Gardener.
Four days after the storm he came down and was shocked at the devastation.
"I made the decision to come back and help with the recovery on the Gulf Coast," he said.
Mayor Connie Moran feels he is uniquely qualified to do just that.
"This grant has enabled the City to hopefully save and protect one of our greatest natural assets. Mr. Minkler can do a lot in a year, both in his own restoration work and by teaching our landscapers what to do after he's gone."
"I hope that Garden Clubs, neighborhood associations, and church and youth groups will take advantage of inviting David to work with them on tree protection and beautification projects. He will be a great resource for Ocean Springs," Moran said.
Minkler agrees, "You can't replace a 300 year old tree, but we can work to restore and protect the ones that survived. I look forward to getting started."