Mississippi Department of Transportation crews are scheduled to begin removing standing dead trees from the medians of U.S. 90 in Biloxi in the next couple of weeks, and Mayor A.J. Holloway has coordinated a plan in which the remaining trunks will be transformed into sculpted works of art.
Dozens of live oaks have died in the center medians of the scenic highway in the 16 months since Hurricane Katrina, and, under Holloway’s plan, MDOT crews will leave as much as 20 feet of the tree trunks in place, where international award-winning “chainsaw artist” Dayton Scoggins of Mississippi will sculpt a variety of marine-related objects.
“We’ve had more than 300 trees of different varieties planted in Biloxi on public property alone since Hurricane Katrina,” Holloway said, “and in this particular project, we’re giving a second life to something Mother Nature attempted to destroy. We were dealt lemons and now we’re going to make lemonade.”
Holloway approached Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown and Harrison County Parkway Commission Director Bobby Weaver about the project on Dec. 7. Gulfport Public Works Director Kris Riemann, who had artist Scoggins sculpt a tree in Gulfport, originally suggested the idea to Biloxi.
The mayor envisions a tree-sculpture garden where a collection of dead oak trees now stands a couple blocks west of the Biloxi Lighthouse, with several other sculptures created in the median further west toward Rodenberg Avenue.
Biloxi will pay $4,000 for the initial sculpting, while MDOT will fund the preliminary "topping" of the trees.
“We’re happy to be a part of this cooperative project,” Commissioner Brown said. “This is, after all, a scenic highway, and I certainly hope that people realize that it involves only those trees that have been deemed as dead, by both MDOT and the city’s arborist. The last thing we want to do – and we will not do – is to take down a live oak.”
Scoggins, who was born in Greene County and lives in Sandersville, Miss., has successfully represented the United States in international woodcarving competitions and has also won numerous awards in competitions throughout the country. To see samples of his stump carvings, click here.
Harrison County crews will continue to be responsible for the maintaining the medians around the sculptures, which Scoggins will treat with an environmentally friendly preservative.
Should the artwork ever be deemed a distraction to passing motorists, Holloway and Brown said, the trunks could be relocated to nearby city parks.
News and notes
Council schedule: The City Council's next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 1:30 p.m., with a special meeting on the Reviving the Renaissance initiaitive and affordable housing immediately afterward. Agendas for the meetings will be posted Friday, Jan. 12.
City Desk: Sgt. Jackie Rhodes, public information officer for the Biloxi Police Department, offers advice for residents who see door-to-door salespeople in their neighborhoods. To listen to the program, click here.
On the map: One of the most sought-after tools for visiting first-responders in the days after Katrina was a City of Biloxi street map. While an updated Street Map and Insiders Guide is now in the works, you can see a host of city and storm-related maps online by clicking here.
Most-viewed videos: Among the most-viewed clips in the city's online photo gallery are the Images of Biloxi montage and the implosion of the Grand Casino's Island View Hotel. To visit the gallery and see the collection of storm- and recovery-related video, click here.