Ocean Springs Hires City's First Arborist

"We take a point that's 4.5 feet off the ground," David Minkler said as he measured an ancient oak on the beachfront.

Don't be surprised if you see David Minkler poking around trees all over Ocean Springs. It's his job.

"This is 76.6 inches in diameter", said Minkler.

Minkler is the city's first arborist. He's in charge of preserving a precious part of the city's identity.

"Ocean Springs has some of the most beautiful trees around, and I've always appreciated those trees," said Minkler. "They're just magnificent trees and worthy of protection."

"Here you got the roots lifted up," said Minkler as he pointed to an exposed root system.

Minkler worked as a licensed landscape contractor and Master Gardener, before branching out into the field of arborist. He discovered his passion for protecting trees after college.

"You have to come see my yard in Pascagoula, I think that has something to do with it," said Minkler. "Somewhere along the line, I think God just tapped me on the shoulder and said this is what you're going to do."

Minkler believes his new job is a calling too. Minkler grew up in Pascagoula, but has lived in California for the past 23-years. Hurricane Katrina brought Minkler back to South Mississippi.

"I thought about moving back here before, but Katrina just.  You can see the Coast needed so much help.  They need everybody to put their shoulder to the wheel and work on it to get things back," said Minkler.

Minkler's duties include determining which trees, whipped by Katrina's winds and water, need to come down, and saving the ones that still have a chance.  He will also work with homeowners, tree committee members and government leaders.

"I'm hoping to work with all arborists on the Coast to see what we can do as a concerted, joint effort to try to get the trees back all along the Coast," said Minkler. "The trees bring themselves back. We don't bring them back, but we can help them do it."

Minkler's job is paid for by a grant from the Mississippi Forestry Commission. It's only for one year. After that, the Board of Aldermen will have to decide whether to continue funding the position.

By: Trang Pham-Bui