June 18, 2018  

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Message from the Physical Plant: Friendship Oak Update

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Members of the Southern Miss Community:   

As you may recall, the Friendship Oak at the Gulf Park campus suffered a branch failure on one of its main limbs in August. This break was determined to be a result of heavy new growth and water weight due to the amount of rain received over the summer. After securing the area for public safety, the University brought in two external tree experts to examine the Friendship Oak and provide a complete inspection report to University leadership.

Dr. Malcolm Guidry, a renowned certified arborist from Covington, La., who specializes in the preservation of Live oaks, performed a full inspection and provided a report on the Friendship Oak. Dr. Fred Fellner, assistant director of Landscape Services at Louisiana State University and Live oak expert, consulted on the inspection and report.

The completed report indicated that the health of the collapsed limb is stressed and in decline and recommended removal of the failed limb. This removal is best for both public safety and the overall health of the Friendship Oak. The report also indicated that the remainder of the Friendship Oak is in a state of good health. Structurally, the other existing limbs appear to be strong and well attached to the trunk, but the report recommended implementing remediation steps to increase support to the remaining limbs.

The University is committed to protecting and supporting the Friendship Oak well into the future. Based on the recommendations included in Dr. Guidry’s report and the supporting opinions of Dr. Fellner and myself, the University is moving forward with the collapsed limb removal and tree remediation, which is expected to begin on Thursday, Oct. 19, at approximately 10 a.m. Removal and remediation work will occur intermittently over the course of 3-5 days, weather permitting. Please note that a number of variables related to such a large-scale outdoor project could impact this estimated timeline. Cannon Tree Services, LLC, out of Covington, La., will facilitate this work.

A secure viewing area for the branch removal will be available on Lloyd Lawn on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20 from approximately 10 a.m. until the work concludes for the day. Individuals interested in observing the removal will be asked to remain in the viewing area, and University Police officers will be on site to help ensure public safety. Access to Avenue of the Oaks and Friendship Oak Circle will be restricted during the removal and remediation. Please exercise caution when walking near the area as this work takes place. Obey all directional signage and barricades around the project. 

Remediation work will include installation of metal prop poles to support selected limbs of the tree and some pruning of the remaining branches. Upon completion of the removal and remediation work, the consulting arborists will return to perform periodic inspections of the Friendship Oak and will report to the Southern Miss Physical Plant on any changes in the tree’s health or appearance.

Please be reminded that access underneath the Friendship Oak and surrounding area is restricted for the foreseeable future.

Although the University will continue to do all that we can to preserve this historic icon, we do realize that the Friendship Oak is moving into a more mature phase of its life span, and future impacts of weather and other natural elements are difficult to predict. As we follow the recommendations of certified arborists and Live oak experts, we remain committed to ensuring that the Friendship Oak retains its dignity as it advances through its life cycle.

The University is also taking proactive measures to preserve the Friendship Oak’s legacy for generations to come. Larger pieces of the removed branch will be salvaged and stored for future use. In addition, the University is nurturing young saplings, which were grown from acorns off the tree, and young clones, which are genetically identical saplings from cuttings taken from limbs of the Friendship Oak.

To learn more about the Friendship Oak, visit usm.edu/friendship-oak. For additional questions, contact the Southern Miss Physical Plant at 601.266.4414.

Loren Erickson

Superintendent of Campus Landscapes and Certified Arborist

Southern Miss Physical Plant