Ocean Springs Mississippi: A Sustainable Living Community

Learn about Ocean Springs Mississippi, a sustainable living community. Hurricane Katrina was no match for Ocean Springs. It’s bouncing back — big time.
By Dave Wann
August/September 2007
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Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Still going strong, despite Hurricane Katrina.
Photo by Alex Demyan


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A great place to live you've never heard of is Ocean Springs Mississippi, a sustainable living community. This historic town survived Hurricane Katrina and is coming back strong.

Ocean Springs Mississippi: A Sustainable Living Community

If you’ve survived a hurricane with the fury of Katrina, the word sustainability is partly synonymous with survivability. The downtown area of Ocean Springs was one of the few commercial districts on the Mississippi coast to come through Katrina intact, or nearly so — but 177 houses in the small city did not. Mary Alice and John Miner had lived in Ocean Springs for 32 years when Katrina blew their house right off Lover’s Lane. Now they’ve rebuilt a smaller house out of steel studs and walls. At age 82, the couple (owners of a toy store that survived) once again has a mortgage, but they say it was out of the question to move away from their cherished hometown.

Because of debris that’s still being cleared away, local officials have implemented a hefty $300 fine for littering. They’ve already replaced more than 5,000 trees and have plans to restore protective wetlands. All new public buildings will meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standards.

“We learned to be grateful for what we have here,” says mayor Connie Moran. What they have is a historic town settled by the French in 1699, with a colorful mix of mansions overlooking the sea, fantastic gardens and ivy-covered cottages shaded by live oaks — the southern symbol of strength.

Ocean Springs also has both natural and cultural assets. Tourists come here to eat fresh seafood; go sailboating, fishing and birding in the bayou and bay; or visit the barrier islands that are preserved as a National Seashore. Many also come to see the art of Walter Anderson, a painter who expressed the nature of Ocean Springs in bold, Van Gogh-like strokes. The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center supplies music, visual and performing arts displays, and education to the community.

Do you live in Ocean Springs? Have you visited? Please post your comments below.


Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Population: 17,698
Climate: Hot and muggy summers. Annual precipitation: 62 inches. Average January temperature: 68 degrees. July average: 82 degrees.
Median House Value: $120,500
Natural Assets: Elevation: 30 feet. Access to 170,000 acres of public lands in Jackson and George Counties and the 80-mile stretch of the Pascagoula River that is protected from development. At this year’s Wild Wing festival, more than 200 of 342 species of birds in the region were identified.
Sustainable Initiatives: Restoration of natural wetlands; replacement of destroyed houses with smaller, more energy-efficient homes; and creation of an eco-tourism industry around the unspoiled nature of the area: birds, marine life and other wildlife on huge tracts of undeveloped land.


Check out the other towns on our 2007 list of Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.


David Wann writes and produces documentaries about sustainable lifestyles. His most recent book, Simple Prosperity, is a sequel to the bestseller Affluenza that he co-authored.


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Post a comment below.

 

ldroot
8/17/2007 4:55:45 PM
Ocean Springs is a wonderful city with a strong backbone in the artistic community and its historic roots but I’m afraid I have to full heartedly agree with U.S. Amy J. Carter in much of what she has expressed. Not only has the housing issue for low and medium income families became un-reasonable beyond all expectations to the point it’s a catastrophe larger then the Hurricane itself, the town is a far cry from meeting Mother’s credentials’ for a “Green” town. To point out a few of the obvious problems… We have yet to begin to rebuild our public piers, and our public officials seem to be more focused on turning the downtown area into a mirror of Bourbon Street, New Orleans with a new bar popping up every other month, then towards providing green spaces to the many hidden bayous and wetlands that snake between the backyards of the higher income homes. The town is not bicycle friendly as its sidewalk infrastructure are hit and miss and if not for the two very short nature trails I’d have to say we’re far from Nature Friendly unless you have a boat to enjoy the bayous with. We do however have a recycle program and the protections of Oak Trees are a priority all along the Mississippi Coast. Sadly, even though this is a wonderful city, I don’t know how Ocean Springs made this list and being a 30+ year reader of Mother Earth News I feel it doesn’t shed a credible light on her at all.

Amy_25
8/1/2007 3:50:11 PM
I'm proud of my town, Ocean Springs, and am a transplant from Texas some 30 years ago. My house survived Katrina, an amazing feat since I live about 75 yards off the Gulf. I agree with many things said in your article, but there should be some clarification. Some people are streamlining and trying to find a more eco-friendly way of building, but others who can are building back just as big and bad as before without regard to energy. This community is a great place to live, but it is studded with wealthy families who drive inefficient SUV's, trucks, and Hummers. I don't understand where the $120,000 median price for a home came from because I know people who have been looking and cannot find a home for less than $130,000, and I can promise the square footage will not be over 1400 square feet. I also notice no one mentioned the almost approved condominium variance on a set of condos reaching 77 feet high, 22 feet over the treeline. It took concerned citizens suing the city to cause a delay in that development. Don't get me wrong...I don't think Ocean Springs is any different from others areas in its need to balance commercialism and ecological awareness, but I do believe MEN was not given all the facts. I continue to work with others to make our little Southern town the best kept secret in the U. S. Amy J. Carter








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