Ocean Springs oak tree cut down because it was unsafe, say city leaders

The oak tree sat close to Fort Maurepas and has been the cause of much debate over the last year.
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:08 AM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Some Ocean Springs residents are upset after one of the city’s beautiful old oak trees was cut down but the city says it was unsafe and had to be done.

The oak tree sat close to Fort Maurepas and has been the cause of much debate over the last year. On Wednesday, the tree was cut down despite the efforts of several citizens who wanted it to be saved.

“I feel like cutting them down just because that’s the first easiest way to do it is the wrong way to do it,” said resident Briley Richmond. “Perhaps explore other options. Perhaps bracing the tree rather than just taking a chainsaw and cutting them down.”

City leaders stressed that cutting down the oak was not something they wanted to do but was something they had to do because it was in the public’s best interests. All other options were explored and multiple arborists were brought in to consult on the matter, said the mayor.

“We don’t want to cut down trees. That’s not what we’re trying to do,” said Mayor Kenny Holloway. “We had four arborists look at that tree, and they all came to the same conclusion: that the tree is a hazard and it could fall.”

After Hurricane Zeta, FEMA determined that the tree was a liability. With the city being made aware of that, Holloway said the city would be financially liable for any damages that incurred if the tree fell.

Now, community members are asking the city to do more for to preserve the natural beauty of Ocean Springs moving forward. In a post that was shared by a few dozen residents, resident Rachel Krumland called the decision to cut the tree “a travesty” and asked citizens to “let this moment serve as a catalyst for change in our community.”

This massive stump is what is left of the Bienville Oak today. It was one of Ocean Springs’ oldest oaks, one of its...

Posted by Rachel Krumland on Wednesday, July 14, 2021

As for why the beloved oaks means so much to Ocean Springs, several point to the tree’s rich history.

“They witnessed the beginning of the establishment and settlement of the course. They witnessed all the progression, all of the industry, all of the communities and all of the generations that passed. They witnessed it,” said resident Joe Jewell. “It’s just a shame we had to sacrifice that.”

An independent risk assessment report was done in November 2020 by Fulgham’s Inc., who agreed that the tree was at a high-risk of failure.

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