- Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - The Ballard Park Baseball Complex is known for its grove of hardwoods that provide shade for parents and players alike.

But it was one of those trees that left Tupelo officials with plenty of questions when a 10-year-old baseball player was killed by a falling tree limb in a sudden summer storm.

In light of the death of Lane Rodgers of Byhalia on June 13, city officials are looking to the state Forestry Commission to conduct a hazardous tree study, not just for the parks but also for public right of ways. There is currently no time frame or cost for the study.

“They will have to come and do an assessment to figure out the true scope of the work before we find out how much it will cost,” said Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Alex Farned.

In the days that followed Rodgers’ death, some called for the city to cut down the trees to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to another child. Clear cutting the area was not an option.

“It’s hard for me or my staff or anyone at Public Works to go out and determine which limbs are going to fall - we are not tree experts,” said Farned. “Limbs that look dead can stay up in a tree for years while seemingly healthy limbs will fall.”

The storm that rolled through the area June 13 was packing sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 50. The limb that struck Rodgers was not the only limb that fell.

“The ground was littered with limbs,” said Farned. “Since we had another youth tournament the next weekend, anything that looked hazardous, we cut out and cut down.”

But that practice is the norm, not the exception for the city. On a regular basis, Park and Recreation employees, along with Public Works employees, will walk through the parks looking at the trees to determine where they need to cut out dead wood and where they need to cut down potentially dangerous trees.

“Just before Lane passed, we came in on the west side of the park and limbed and took out dead wood, both for safety and aesthetics,” said Farned. “It was already on the schedule. So was the east side of the park. We finished up that work last week.”

Before the baseball complex was built, the area on the south end of the Ballard Park Sportsplex was thick woods between Cliff Gookin Boulevard and the Natchez Trace Parkway.

“It was mostly cedar trees, some pines and a hardwood grove,” said Farned. “They intentionally laid out the ballfields to take advantage of those trees.

“People gravitate toward those trees. And when people talk about the park or leave comments, they always talk about the trees.”


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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