Natchez one of three cities chosen for Tree Mississippi program

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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NATCHEZ—The loss of the historic Magnolia tree on the grounds of White Wings on North Wall Street and some other trees in the area has caused city officials to question whether they are doing enough to protect the city’s trees.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the city will review its procedures to determine their adequacy. The mayor said Natchez’s acceptance to participate in the Tree Mississippi Assistance Program will assist that effort.

“This is a partnership between the City of Natchez, the Mississippi Forestry, and the Green Infrastructure Center, which is a non-profit working nationally with communities to improve the conservation of trees and to promote the addition of trees to communities throughout the country,” he said. “We have, within this past month, become one of three cities in Mississippi chosen to participate in the program. We applied for this opportunity through a competitive process. I haven’t even had time to announce it yet.”

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Gibson said Debbie Hudson Germany, who consults with the city on grant writing, and Greg Brookings, director of the Duncan Park Golf Course, led the application process.

“For the next several years, we will work to improve our ordinances, improve communication with the public, and hold workshops. And, in time, we will safely plant many new trees — utilizing state and federal grant funds — to renew our community’s canopy and environmental fabric.

“Do you realize we lost dozens of trees at Duncan Park last year due to the drought and pine beetle?” Gibson asked. “We have been carefully removing those through the oversight of Greg Brookings. Sadly, many old trees have been lost.”

He said a task force will work with master gardeners, parks and recreation officials, Keep Natchez Beautiful, and the Mississippi State Extension Service.

“We have some great things planned,” Gibson said. “We are considering now enacting an ordinance that will protect historic trees. This new program will assist us in drafting that ordinance.”

He said the new ordinance would focus specifically on  Live Oaks, Magnolia, Crape Myrtles, and Sweet Olives.

“We are open to other suggestions, too. Being such a beautiful and historic city, it is so important that we do all we can to protect these sorts of trees in our community. Just imagine all the history they have been witness to,” Gibson said. “I do not suggest we are experts and are qualified to second guess a licensed arborist and recommendations being made and followed by homeowners in Natchez. The ordinance must be carefully crafted and recognize that we have to maintain public safety and trees tend to become safety hazards.”