TUPELO – Most urban forests didn’t grow by chance but were planted as part of a city effort to improve aesthetics, increase property values and draw commerce.
In other words, trees are big business. So when the city of Tupelo hosted a free urban forestry workshop Friday, more than a dozen Northeast Mississippi municipalities sent representatives to attend.
The workshop was organized by the Mississippi Urban Forest Council to provide training on tree selection, planting, trimming, maintaining and removal.
“Planting the right tree in the right place is critical,” said MUFC Executive Director Donna Yowell, who praised Tupelo’s tree program as one of the most advanced in the region.
Tupelo’s program is headed in part by the city’s environmental planner, Sherrie Cochran, who said increasingly more communities are realizing the importance of a well-maintained urban forest.
Residents also have taken note, as evidenced by the barrage of complaints levied recently against the city for removing several large oaks downtown. Most of those trees were diseased, dying and dangerous and needed to come down, city officials said.
“We’ve had a little bit of controversy,” Cochran said, “so I was hoping to see some of the people who had complained about it to come to this workshop and find out more about how and why we care for trees. I didn’t see any of them, though.”
Cochran did see officials from cities and towns like Starkville, Southaven, West Point, Pontotoc, Nettleton and Tishomingo.
Tishomingo Alderwoman Anne Taylor said her constituents love trees so much that they personally bought 175 of them to plant on the town’s public property.
“It was part of our town’s centennial celebration in 2008,” Taylor said. “We wanted to have 100 trees for 100 years and asked for donations from citizens to purchase trees in memory or in honor of somebody. We hit 100 and kept going.”
Those trees are registered at the city’s Web site, and each lists the species, location, planting date, the tree sponsor and the tree honoree.
“I think the fact that we had 175 trees donated in a town of only 300-400 people speaks to how we feel about trees,” Taylor said.
The city of Tupelo also plans to plant about 150 trees next week to repopulate those it cut down this year, said David Knight of the Public Works Department.
“We want to put back what we take,” he said.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal