Long Beach, Mississippi Concept Plan – Oak Park

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and significant property destruction, the city of Long Beach, MS developed a proposed comprehensive plan for the city that included a concept for a new public green space called Oak Park to buffer the downtown area from storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico.  The plan placed the park between a new roadway to the north and the coastline and Highway 90, which would be redesigned, to the south.  The plan was designed to both revitalize the town aesthetically and provide natural protection for residents from storm events. Combined with a general emphasis on planting and protecting oak trees throughout Long Beach, the Oak Park plan would allow Long Beach to protect city infrastructure and private property from future flooding events while preserving the town’s history and appearance. The plan thus offered an appealing response to the increased risk from severe storms and flooding in the Gulf under future climate conditions. 

In addition to creating Oak Park as a green space, the plan also involved redesigning Highway 90, which runs along the coastline and would remain on the coastal side of Oak Park.  The city considered relocating the highway, but determined that it was not cost effective and could invite legal challenges from private property owners.  According to the Oak Park plan, the highway, which would be renamed “Beach Boulevard,” would remain south of the park and would be designed as a tree-lined thoroughfare with dedicated trolley lanes, two traffic lanes in each direction, and a landscaped median. 

The plan proposed adding a new roadway on the northern edge of the park as well.  The new roadway would be placed just north of the FEMA V-Zone (the coastal zone subject to high velocity wave action), allowing for a pedestrian and shopping-friendly route through the newly protected area. The designers considered relevant FEMA analysis, extending the park plan from the “Special Flood Hazard Area” to the Coastal A-Zone, the area where storm surge flooding is less severe but can still damage or destroy buildings. Ultimately, the placement of the park would buffer against water from the Gulf, lessening the impact of storm surges before reaching the new roadway or any private property.  

Aesthetically, the design and branding of Oak Park was intended to draw upon the town’s longstanding connection to the oak tree, most notably via the “Friendship Oak”, a massive tree with local cultural significance on the University of Southern Mississippi campus. The Oak Park plan was paired, therefore, with an Oak Tree Legacy Program designed to both help trees damaged by Hurricane Katrina recover and encourage the planting of new oak trees. The program called for improved irrigation, adequate “no disturbance root zones” and appropriate under-tree planting.

Oak Park was included in a general comprehensive concept plan by the architecture firm Ayer Saint Gross and the Long Beach Executive Committee. As of October 2015, it appears that the city did not proceed with implementing the plan and design for Oak Park.

 

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on October 30, 2015.

Publication Date: August 2006

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