Tree Supporters Lose Battle To Save Trees Around Courthouse - - The News for South Mississippi

Tree Supporters Lose Battle To Save Trees Around Courthouse

The Hancock County Courthouse tree controversy heated up at the board of supervisors meeting Monday morning.

At issue are five trees which are slated to be cut down as part of a major renovation project at the Courthouse.

As WLOX News already reported, many residents and downtown business owners want the trees preserved. But architects say three of the trees are actually damaging the building's foundation, and two others are diseased and should be removed for more parking spaces.

Armed with a petition with more than 340 signatures, "Save the Trees" committee members came prepared to do battle.

"Many of the people who signed these petitions are concerned with the irreplaceable green space that will be covered up with concrete or asphalt," Bay St. Louis resident Pat Cucullu.

Cucullu is the group's spokeswoman. She offered supervisors alternatives to cutting down two diseased sycamore trees for parking spaces.

"Since parking seems to pose a significant problem on court and jury days, we suggest that a small map be printed and mailed out with the court notices to the jurors coming up highlighting the public parking areas within a two-block radius," Cucullu said.

The group also told county leaders that the Baptist Church right across the street from the Courthouse has given the public permission to park in its lot.

"What attempts have been made to save those sycamores? What has been done to investigate or study the possibility of improving the health of the sycamores?," downtown business owner Pam West asked.

"The answer to your question regarding whether or not we have looked into ways to save those trees the answer is no," renovations architect Edward Wikoff said.

The architects' original plan called for the removal of six trees including a live oak and a magnolia tree. A revised plan will now save the magnolia, but the live oak and four other trees remain on the chopping block.

"It's required by city ordinance that the live oak that's coming down be replaced by a new live oak which is in our plan," Wikoff said.

"I don't intend to alter the plan no more than what's been done. I think we've got to do what's right for the community overall," board president Rocky Pullman said.

After much debate on the issue, county leaders unanimously voted to approve the architect's revised plan. Architects say new trees and shrubs will replace any taken down in front of the Courthouse, with the exception of the trees cut down to make room for parking.

The $1.3 million renovation project is expected to begin in June.

By Al Showers

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