City reforestation plan falls short of expectations

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Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 12, 2019 – 2:00 p.m.

City arborist Dave Holley

Fernandina Beach City Arborist Dave Holley presented a reforestation plan for the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s (FBCC) consideration at the FBCC’s August 6, 2019 Regular Meeting.  What Holley presented fell short of FBCC expectations, especially those of Commissioner Chip Ross.

Holley identified two areas of the city where a total of 92 trees could be planted for roughly $5,000:  52 at Hickory Street Park and 40 at the Peck Center.  He also announced plans for a giveaway of 300-400 saplings to city residents and an estimated 2,000 seedling giveaway at local schools.  Holley also announced a tree planting challenge to all city residents and businesses to be known as Fernandina Loves Trees.

“We want people to plant trees and tell us when they do it,” Holley said, indicating that the city is trying to maintain records of the number of trees removed and the number of trees planted.  He said that the goal is to plant 7,000 trees, the number of trees removed for one reason or another between 2014 and the current time.

Following Holley’s presentation, Commissioner Ross directed comments to City Manager Dale Martin.  He quoted language from the FBCC’s most recent visioning session that read:  a plan developed by an arborist and/or others to increase the city’s tree canopy by five percent no later than February 2024 will be presented to the City Commission by August 6, 2019.

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Ross said, “What I’ve seen here tonight does not address this directive in any way.  It is suggestions.  What I was hoping for was a hard plan that would set out annual steps and costs to achieve the goal by 2024.  To be honest, I am disappointed in this

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Commissioner Mike Lednovich echoed Ross’ comments to the City Manager, adding that $5,000 “is a pittance” toward achieving the goal.  He asked about raising the budget to $20,000 to preserve the city’s tree canopy.  He asked Holley if the city would plant 300-400 trees, would the city have the capacity to care for them.  

Holley replied that he would do his best.  “I want to see every tree we plant live.  I want to see mulch around it, no nicks in the bark.”  He said that during periods of drought there is a lot of work involved in keeping newly planted trees alive.  “If you fill the city’s parks up with trees, there’s no room for carnivals, baseball games.  That’s why I hope residents can plant some trees in their yards. … We can’t just plant 700 trees per acre like they do in reforesting timber lands.  We want usable space.”  He also cited issues with planting under utility wires in public spaces along roads.

Lednovich called for a plan for next year to increase the tree canopy by 1.2 percent and the associated costs to implement such a plan.

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Mayor John Miller said that he understood that part of the problem is getting water to the trees that are located a distance from roads.  He suggested that the city procure a “water buffalo,” a portable water reservoir.

Vice Mayor Len Kreger agreed with Miller and also suggested reaching into the community for volunteers to help with the effort.

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7 Responses to City reforestation plan falls short of expectations

  1. Dave Lott says:

    So what does a 1.2 % increase in the canopy require in terms the number of trees planted? Is the 1.2% coverage goal for Year 1 or Year 10, 25? What is the capacity of city-owned property for additional trees without negatively impacting the use of that property? A 5-6′ live oak is going to cost $100 – $125 per tree. While eventually it will grow to 60′ – 80′ high with a similar sized diameter canopy, it will take some time to develop a canopy of any sufficient size. Without water bags, it is going to be difficult to maintain a sufficient watering schedule to maintain newly planted tree. With the high permability of our sandy soil, the bags will require constant refilling. Worthy goals but the resources (dollars and personnel) must be made available to be successful.

  2. Eric Bartelt says:

    Maybe those 52 trees Mr. Holley proposed for Hickory St. Park, which would be paid for from the City’s tree fund, should go somewhere else since Hickory St. Park is owned by the School Board, not the City.

  3. Rosita Iglesia says:

    What our city arborist has given us is a good first step. I think his idea to include all city residents in the reforestation plan makes perfect sense. Especially, engaging the school children. Dave Holley is just one person. Let’s all pitch in. Start planting Fernandina!

  4. Biodiversity is the key to a communities overall tree health. Oaks are lovely but so are bald cypress, maples, birch, dogwood and countless other native species. Plant trees that don’t require as much water and initial maintenance. Don’t plant trees under power lines – just look at how dangerous (and ugly) the trees have become along the north side of Sadler Road in front of the Bealls and Publix shopping center.

    Trees planted in and near parks are a great idea but so are trees that are in our out of the way places too – the Greenway and along areas that were clear cut decades ago near industrial zones are perfect for additional trees. Don’t plant trees too close to sidewalks, curbs or roads. I mention this only because that practice still goes on all the time here on the island.

    Finally, stop the wholesale removal of the trees we have! Look at what’s been done recently along the eastern end of Sadler Road with the new hotel(s). Yes the Hilton was in the county at its inception but it will be in the city shortly. Some of the trees that were left will die as they are now too close to the finished building and weren’t protected properly enough early in the construction process.

  5. Gerald Decker says:

    Where did this need for re-forestation come from? Makes it sound like we are living on a denuded desert island—AI is beautifully treed. Care for the old growth, encourage people to plant trees—maybe a small tax rebate (city tax). Maybe free beach parking pass (when paid parking kicks in). Think creatively to encourage action—cut out this tax and spend approach to everything.

  6. John Goshco says:

    I noticed quite a bit of storm damage at the city golf course after hurricanes Matthew and Irma. It doesn’t appear that any of the affected trees have been replaced. Plenty of room for replacement trees and additional trees. Even the airport (and adjoining Amelia River golf Club) has room for some trees without affecting operations.

    Dave is correct when estimating the cost of a decent size Live Oak, but there’s no reason that a whole lot of smaller trees shouldn’t be planted as well. Younger trees are cheaper to buy and easier to plant and take care of. Small trees require less water to get established and in 10 years they’ll all look the same. Some of the varieties suggested by @ChrisandCarol will grow faster than the oaks and contribute to the scenery much sooner.

    If you plant a few trees here and a few trees there, scattered all over the city, initial maintenance costs are likely to be high. If trees are planted, each year, within the same approximate square mile (or two) then initial maintenance cost will likely be lower and you’ll be less likely to lose track of them.

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