By Mike Keller
Biloxi, MS (August 24, 2007)- During the second day of a regional workshop at which participants drafted plans to restore and improve South Mississippi’s urban forest, ideas matured into potential action. “I’m impressed at how ready your readiness factor is already,” said Ray Tretheway, the director of Sacramento Tree Foundation, who came to South Mississippi to share his expertise and success in establishing his community’s urban forest group. “Science and partnerships are going to be the cornerstones of your success.”
Using detailed charts created by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 60 workshop participants- mostly tree specialists and interested residents- calculated the costs and benefits of aggressive tree-planting programs in their communities.
Participants calculated planting 300,000 trees over the next three years would create $1.2 billion accumulated benefits over 40 years. “It’s important to realize what the potential benefits are and the actual impacts of these trees,” said STF’s Eric Douglas. “We’re trying to help (the workshop group) understand how to use this information as a communication strategy to move officials.”
Participants split into groups to tackle different components necessary to build the comprehensive plan. One group created a mission statement for the new nonprofit organization, tentatively named Greenprint South Mississippi, which will steward separate forestry endeavors along the Coast to create a single cohesive effort.
Another workshop roundtable advocated for the creation of a model tree-planting and maintenance ordinance that could be used by municipalities and counties throughout South Mississippi. “I think it would help in the long run,” said Joe Loftus, a Long Beach arborist. “We need to educate people and politicians on what type of benefits you get from the urban forest.”
Rob Crawford, another Long Beach arborist, said a group of tree specialists has already begun meeting to create the new ordinance. “We’ve got 10 new certified arborists on the Coast,” Crawford said. “As a group we can all come together and create a working tree ordinance.”
Participants at the workshop created specific goals and projections for their own communities. Gulfport foresees planting 100,000 residential and public trees in the next three years. Bay St. Louis projects planting 60,000 trees in three years, while Lucedale plans to plant 15,000 trees.
A combination of all the work done at the meeting will create specific goals and objectives for every community, which residents will be able to use to lobby their elected officials.
“You can’t just go to these officials and say, ‘We want better streets.’ That won’t work,” STF’s Douglas said. “You’ve got to go in with specific things you want done and tie it to dollars and cents.”
Biloxi Sun Herald
Sacramento Tree Foundation