Jackson County

Ocean Springs will cut the leaning tree. When is being kept quiet.

The leaning tree, cherished by some neighbors on Lover’s Lane, is slated to be cut and removed. The city has decided not to say when, because emotions run high.
The leaning tree, cherished by some neighbors on Lover’s Lane, is slated to be cut and removed. The city has decided not to say when, because emotions run high. klnelson@sunherald.com

Late Tuesday, after the state flag flap, the Board of Aldermen came out of executive session and decided to have the leaning tree on Lover’s Lane cut.

It’s time, city Building Official Hilliard Fountain said. “It has become a bottle neck to traffic.”

City Alderman Mike Impey was fielding questions about the decision on Facebook this week.

He said the last straw was an incident where a truck hit the tree and spilled diesel all the way to the Indian Head on U.S. 90.

Neighbors have fought for the tree, saying it and others are a key part of the ambiance on Lover’s Lane, something that adds to the property value along the narrow, winding street that follows Back Bay, where houses easily exceed $1 million.

A year ago, the prior Board of Aldermen agreed to monitor the tree, confirmed that the city’s big fire truck could get into the area if driven carefully and decided to monitor the situation.

That changed.

Impey explained, “As the tree grows, it will become more and more unstable.

“However, the tag they were using to monitor this kept getting hit and taken off by various delivery trucks ... until it became impossible to maintain a baseline.

“There have been ongoing issues of trucks being damaged and causing damage to the tree.”

In the most recent case, it was a large truck that went up the lane, but had trouble getting out, Impey said. One of its tanks was damaged and caused a fuel spill.

The city fire department and the state Department of Environmental Quality were involved in the cleanup, he said.

“Unfortunately, at this point, there seems to be no alternative,” he said. “The city loves its trees, but sometimes, you are left with no choice.”

Neighbors responding to Impey said the truck had an inexperienced driver who was lost and ignored warning signs that are posted. One accused prior city leaders of trying to fabricate reasons to get rid of the tree, including the fire truck’s inability to clear it.

The tree came to light with city leaders last year when a resident at the end of the lane expressed concern about fire department access.

Passion for these trees runs high in parts of the neighborhood, as witnessed when residents came out against contractors who drastically trimmed the trees to clear power lines after Hurricane Nate, city officials said.

Therefore the date and time for cutting the leaning tree will not be announced.

“They will have the police out there,” Fountain said. “We’re not playing around on this.”

The city plans to take the tree down and grind the stump. It will be done in conjunction with sewer work that will tear up the street in that area.

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