Gulfport Considering Stronger Tree Protection

Like Joanne Palmer's beachfront yard, the yards of many Gulfport homes are filled with beautiful, stately live oak trees. But Gulfport's ordinance doesn't protect the trees because they're on private property. That means the homeowner can pay $25, get a permit, and cut the tree down.

"I think it is such a mistake. We can't put back a tree not very easily. You have to start with a small one so we couldn't possibly duplicate anything that we have here," Palmer says.

Palmer and Margaret Moyse say they fought for years to get a tree ordinance and in 1989 the council passed one. These ladies say it's always bothered them that the ordinance doesn't include protecting trees in people's yards.

"They are the coast, absolutely and visitors and tourists who come down here are absolutely captivated by the fact that we are right on the water and have these gorgeous trees," Moyse says.

Changes to the ordinance will require homeowners to pay $45 to remove one tree, with the fee increasing depending on how many trees are cut. Residents will also have to get the city's permission to get rid of them. Gulfport's Tree Protection Advisor says the ordinance needs to cover both residential and commercial trees.

"I think it strengthens the law in general, that if you only do some properties and not other properties it might be considered a weakness in the law and not hold up in court well," Brian Capo says.

Along with the live oaks, the ordinance will address four other protected trees. They are southern magnolia, sweet gum, sweet bay and red maple.  Gulfport's tree commission will review the changes to the ordinance. Public hearings will be conducted before a final vote by the city council.