Jackson County

Preservation project takes in Twelve Oaks’ ancient trees

Dignitaries cut the ribbon around one of the many oak trees at the Twelve Oaks property on Old Fort Bayou in Ocean Springs to signify the adoption of the property into the Hancock Bank Perseverance Oaks program on Friday, October 21, 2016.
Dignitaries cut the ribbon around one of the many oak trees at the Twelve Oaks property on Old Fort Bayou in Ocean Springs to signify the adoption of the property into the Hancock Bank Perseverance Oaks program on Friday, October 21, 2016. amccoy@sunherald.com

When a breeze came through the Twelve Oaks property on Friday’s gorgeous fall morning, the acorns rained down from the ancient oaks.

They made little thud sounds all around the Live oak that towered over a ceremony with Coast and local officials who were celebrating the tree’s legacy.

The tree, and others on the property, will become part of the Perseverance Oaks program that involves gathering acorns from iconic Live oaks, growing them at the Mississippi State University Extension Service and sending the young trees out into the coastal community to grow, thrive and repopulate where hurricanes have scalded the landscape.

The program is shepherded by Hancock Bank with support from the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and the Sun Herald. Hancock Bank has set a goal of growing and disseminating 10 special oaks to 10 Coast cities or communities each year.

The Land Trust added the aspect of individual tree sponsorship to the mix, so people who want to honor loved ones can sponsor a tree by buying a dedication. The money will be used to further the program of repopulating the Coast’s Live oaks.

The huge tree looked like a dapper old man Friday, dressed for the occasion with a big blue bow around its gnarly trunk.

From the podium, Keith Williams, president of Hancock Bank, called the secluded property a hidden gem. Just off busy and noisy U.S. 90, it was as quiet as the countryside — quiet enough to hear the acorns falling.

The property belongs to the state and the Land Trust. The trees were chosen to be included in the oak-preservation project, which includes the famed Friendship Oak on the Long Beach campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Before the ceremony, students from Oak Park Elementary in Ocean Springs picked acorns from the ground around the oaks at Twelve Oaks and presented them to MSU for growing. The children represented the educational component of the project, in which the bank plans to teach Coast children about the environment and financial literacy.

Officials gave credit to state Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, for rounding up the initial money to preserve the Twelve Oak property. He said he played on it as a child and felt it needed to be set aside for the general public. The Land Trust bought it in 2005 with state and federal grant money.

“It’s not all about today,” Zuber said. “It’s about leaving Ocean Springs a better place for future generations. This place is priceless.”

What’s good about trees?

  • They keep the air supply fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide. Two trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.
  • In one year, a tree can absorb the carbon dioxide produced by a car driven 26,000 miles.
  • Providing shade, they reduce heating and cooling costs by $2.1 billion a year.
  • They act as sound barriers and cut down on noise pollution.
  • Their roots stabilize soil.
  • Tree limbs reduce wind speed by 80 percent.
  • They improve water quality by filtering rain water and protecting aquifers and watersheds.
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