Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran was named Mississippi’s Green Mayor of the Year on Friday and Bay St. Louis shared the honor of Scenic Community of Mississippi with Laurel during the 2016 Celebration of Trees.
The program at Courtyard by Marriott on the beach was presented by the Mississippi Urban Forest Council and the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
Other Coast winners were Pascagoula River Audubon Center for Model Green Infrastructure and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain for Civic Organization of the Year.
“We have people that are very passionate about trees in Ocean Springs,” Moran said.
She told the other Coast mayors in attendance and those who represented cities throughout the state, “Think green. Green your community. It creates value. People appreciate it.”
Moran said the city has planted more than 1,000 trees since Hurricane Katrina hit 11 years ago, and recalled how public works employees who had come from around the country to help had covered the roots of the huge oak trees after the storm.
“They helped us save our trees,” she said.
Moran said she’s been “very diligent” about green practices in the city.
Last year, Ocean Springs received a grant from the Forestry Council to get an employee trained as a city arborist, she said, and the city has landscaped walking paths on the beach with natural grasses and trees. She also hopes to get some of the city’s trees on the national tree register.
“In my opinion, green brings green,” she said, referring to the economic benefits of green practices. “People want to be in a town that has a tree canopy. It just invites people to come in.”
Donna Yowell, executive director of the Mississippi Urban Forest Council, told the audience, “Trees can become political,” and said she thinks every mayor in the room knows that.
Nine cities in South Mississippi and Keesler Air Force Base were honored for being Tree City USA members.
Tree City USA members and years in program
Biloxi: 33 years
Keesler Air Force Base: 26 years
Long Beach: 26 years
Ocean Springs: 23 years
Pascagoula: 14 years
Gulfport: 12 years
Pass Christian: 8 years
Bay St. Louis: 6 years
Diamondhead: 3 years
Waveland: 2 years
Mississippi Urban Forestry Council