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State officials like city’s tree project

A recently-completed Brookway Boulevard tree planting project isa model for the rest of the state to follow, state transportationand forestry officials said Friday during a tour of the area.

The $34,477 project saw 254 trees planted along the boulevardbetween Interstate 55 and Highway 51. Grant funding with the helpof the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) and theMississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) totaled $15,000, with therest coming from the chamber of commerce and the city throughin-kind contributions.

MDOT Roadside Development Manager Dave Thompson said theboulevard work was a “great project.”

“I’m very impressed with the quality and planning that went intoit,” said Thompson, who also visited a Crystal Springs projectduring the tour.

In comments that also apply to the city’s main entrance,Thompson said the transportation system is the doorway to thestate.

“If we don’t have a nice transportation system, we’ve notputting out the welcome mat to visitors,” Thompson said.

MFC State Forester James L. Sledge said the 22 different speciesof trees represented an “interesting assortment.”

Sledge was glad to see the long-leaf pine among them. That kindof tree was prominent in the area around the turn of the century,but it is not a good candidate to come back naturally, he said.

“It’s good to see some of the natural diversity back in,” Sledgesaid. “It’s a pretty tree. I like it and it works well.”

Donna Yowell, executive director of the Mississippi Urban ForestCouncil, said it is important for communities to take advantage ofplanting trees in urban areas. She stressed the importance of treeproject education and indicated that Brookhaven could help in thateffort.

“This is the kind of project that’s a real model for the state,”Yowell said. “This is one of the more impressive projects I’veseen.”

Local officials credited a community partnership with helpingmake the project a success.

“Without the city’s involvement, you don’t get anywhere,” saidJimminette Phillips, chairwoman of the chamber’s CommunityAppearance Committee. “We’ve been real lucky with the city workingwith us.”

Phillips was hopeful other area communities would followBrookhaven’s lead regarding tree projects.

“I’d like to see all the communities do this so southwestMississippi can become the premiere place to live,” she said.

While the tree work is done, community officials are looking touse a $54,000 Department of Environmental Quality grant to improveappearances around drainage areas and elsewhere along theboulevard. Bennie Hutchins, Southwest Mississippi ResourceConservation and Development coordinator, said the work willinvolve erosion control measures in conjunction withlandscaping.

“We’re trying to incorporate best management practices with alandscape plan,” Hutchins said.