MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The City of Mobile will begin work next week to remove five additional trees from Bienville Square that have been deemed a risk to public safety due to damage sustained during Hurricane Sally.

According to city officials, last week a team of certified arborists from seven states traveled to the Port City to help evaluate damaged trees in Bienville Square as part of a larger survey of trees in public spaces throughout the city.

They say the City of Mobile’s Urban Forestry Team, the Alabama Forestry Commission and this third-party team of arborists determined these five trees - two of which were damaged by other falling trees during Hurricane Sally - pose a risk to public safety in the park. Based on Federal Emergency Management Agency criteria and current tree care standards, they were recommended to be removed.

One of the trees is actively uprooting, three are suffering from unrecoverable heartwood exposure and another was slated for removal after impulse tomography scans revealed a significant lack of structural stability in its core. Together with the six trees that fell as the storm made landfall, a total of 11 trees were lost as a result of damage sustained during Hurricane Sally.

Work to remove the five remaining damaged trees is scheduled to begin on Monday, Oct. 26, and the north side parking on St. Francis Street will be closed until this process is completed. The park, which has remained closed since Hurricane Sally, will be reopened to the public shortly afterward.

“I want to thank our team members and the arborists convened by the Alabama Forestry Commission who helped us conduct a thorough and scientific third-party evaluation of trees throughout the City of Mobile,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “While the damage sustained in Bienville Square was significant, we are dedicated to continuing our work to restore and protect this invaluable community asset.”

Working with the Mobile Arts Council, the City plans to use wood salvaged from the Bienville Square trees as a medium for artists who specialize in woodwork. Lucy Gafford, Executive Director of the Mobile Arts Council, said her team has already heard from several interested artists throughout the area.

“When news of the Bienville oaks spread, hundreds of community members reached out to us, wanting to create new life from Sally’s destruction,” Gafford said. “Once the wood is in a more manageable state and we know how much will be salvageable, the Mobile Arts Council will work with the City and the tree service to determine how it will be divided, then put a call out to artists to apply for a piece. We plan to organize an exhibition of the works made with the fallen oaks sometime next year.”

As we continue to move forward with recovery efforts in Bienville Square, the City of Mobile and our Parks and Recreation Department will be working with community groups like the Downtown Mobile Alliance and the Downtown Parks Conservancy. These organizations and all Mobilians have an interest in maintaining this beautiful and iconic space in the heart of downtown.

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