Saving the signs: Quinn trying to repair tree markers

Published 8:19 am Friday, October 7, 2016

While most of Cassidy Park has been put back together again after the March 11 flood, not everything in the park has been repaired.

Frequent visitors may have noticed a series of low signs beneath certain trees, identifying the species and usually noting a few facts and uses of the tree. The signs were the brainchild of Terry “Foots” Quinn, and since the flood, Quinn has been on a mission to restore each sign.

Quinn said the flood only washed away three or four markers, but nearly every sign is damaged.

“Most of those were ruined,” he said. “I’d say 90 percent. And a couple of the trees are gone but the markers are still there.”

The markers’ wooden posts are set in cement. The tops of the post are cut at an angle, at on top of that, there is a clear, hard plastic protective plate that houses a paper card.

Most of the cards have water damage and many of the protective plates are filled with sand, leftover from when the water rose above the markers.

Quinn said most of the markers are memorials for people, some living and some dead, and the tree adoptions at $25 each paid for the initial post. Quinn said he’s not charging anyone anything extra to clean up the markers, though he is accepting new tree adoptions.

The biggest expense, Quinn said, is the plastic casing. He said he gets them from a specialty store in Kenner, and he has to buy 40 at a time for a total of $400.

So far, Quinn said he’s fixed about a third of the signs in the park. As the weather cools, he expects to do more.

“Most of it that is left to do is cleaning them, repainting them and putting the signage up, getting it printed and then putting it back up. And that’s not as big of a deal as replacing the whole thing,” he said.

Quinn said he was inspired to erect the signs after visiting the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune.

“I thought we need something like that here,” he said. “Charles Mizell was the mayor, and he approved of the idea.”

Quinn is an avid outdoorsman and lives near Cassidy Park. He said he spends as much time outside as he can.

“I’ll take my breakfast in the carport if the weather is nice because I like to be outside,” he said.

Quinn said his sign project began in 2010, and he initially wanted to commemorate some of the state champion trees in the park. The state of Louisiana’s Department of Forestry maintains a database of state champion trees, and the parish has six, though several are co-champions with trees in other parts of the state. Of the six, Quinn said five are in Cassidy Park, though the persimmon tree is the only large tree among the champions.

“The rest don’t get that big anyway,” he said.

Quinn said he would like for the city to acquire the property across the Bogue Lusa Creek, as that area has even more diverse species.

“They got a lot of sycamores over there which we don’t have in the park and they have Tung oil trees, which we don’t have in the park,” he said.

Quinn said he would also like LSU to get involved with the park. Quinn noted that Mississippi State University’s agriculture extension office manages the Arboretum in Picayune, and that way the park offers exhibits, visitor information and special field days to attract tourists and locals.

The city isn’t likely to make any major changes to the park or acquire more land anytime soon. But in the meantime, Quinn said he’ll keep on repairing the old signs and adding more, when he can.

Quinn said there are still about 10 species of trees in Cassidy Park that are without markers, so he still has a ways to go before he’s out of new species. He also hopes to add more native species soon.

“I’m waiting for cooler weather to plant more trees,” he said.

This past February, Quinn helped plant a water tupelo, a black cherry and a sweet bay magnolia, although the black cherry and a longleaf pine died.

Quinn said if anyone would like to help with the sign repair or adopt a tree, they may call him at 985-516-0084.