Jackson County

Will Ocean Springs leaning tree get a reprieve?

KAREN NELSONNeighbors show support for the leaning tree on Lover's Lane with ribbons and signs that say, 'save me.'
KAREN NELSONNeighbors show support for the leaning tree on Lover's Lane with ribbons and signs that say, 'save me.'

OCEAN SPRINGS -- An attorney filed papers Friday in Circuit Court to stop Ocean Springs from cutting the leaning tree on Lover's Lane.

And Mayor Connie Moran said she will veto the city's decision to cut it so that city leaders can take another look at the issue.

She said she also hopes to avoid a lawsuit.

New information has emerged about the tree and how it affects fire truck response time on the narrow, winding street.

City leaders now have a video that shows the city's biggest fire truck driving under the tree without having to stop. They now know the 45-second delay fire officials believed the tree caused with fire response was an educated guess and not actually timed.

Attorney Ken Altman, who lives on the lane, has filed a bill of exception in court and alerted the city. The court papers were filed on behalf of JoAnn Calhoun, who lives closest to the tree.

In the meantime, neighbors have decorated the tree with ribbons and a plea to "save me."

"People are very passionate about the tree," Moran said. "I just want to make sure we explore all the options."

She and others on the Board of Aldermen are looking at ways the tree might be illuminated and a warning system set up to clear traffic on the narrow lane when a fire truck or any emergency vehicle needs access.

Moran said they have learned it's opposing traffic on that very narrow street, not the tree, that causes fire trucks to have to pull over and stop. When the road is clear, the tree is less of an issue, she said. But it is a bad combination.

She plans to bring the tree issue back before the Board of Alderman on Tuesday with new ideas. The board voted two weeks ago to have it cut for safety reasons, with only Alderman Jerry Dalgo voting no. Aldermen said they believed it was delaying emergency vehicles. Moran said her veto doesn't mean she opposes the board, "I just want to give this an opportunity for more discussion, in light of new information."

Tuesday the board will be formally presented with the new evidence.

She said shining a light on the tree could be part of a solution, making it easier for drivers to see. It has the scars to prove trucks hit it. But the city has learned the tree's root structure and canopy are healthy. It's a Live oak that has survived more than a century and neighbors say it adds to the ambience of the neighborhood, known for its trees that hang over the road.

Moran said although she believes cutting the tree is a drastic measure, she doesn't have a vote in the final say. The decision lies with the Board of Aldermen.

The fire chief is feeling the pressure and aldermen have said if he wants it cut, it will be cut, Moran said.

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