Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 3, 2018 12:42 p.m.
Trees are a defining characteristic of Amelia Island. Local residents prize them, most especially the ancient live oaks, many of which have been designated Heritage Trees by the City of Fernandina Beach.
A heritage tree is any native tree designated as irreplaceable by the City, due to its size, age, historic, aesthetic, or cultural significance. Generally, the tree must be a native tree like a Live Oak, Southern Magnolia, Southern Red Cedar or other native species and have a diameter breast height (DBH) of at least thirty-six (36) inches.
Any citizen, property owner, or City official may nominate a tree to be designated as a heritage tree. The nomination is researched by the City Arborist and forwarded to the City Commission for official designation. Please contact Planning Manager Kelly Gibson ([email protected]) if you are interested in nominating a heritage tree.
At their final meeting of 2017, the Fernandina Beach City Commission designated 9 trees – 7 on public property and 2 on private property – as Heritage Trees. Margaret Kirkland, representing the Amelia Tree Conservancy, credited activist Peg Lehosit for her work on this project. Lehosit has volunteered many hours working with both city staff and property owners, to complete the nomination forms and shepherd the trees through the approval process.
The City currently maintains the trees located in the city’s rights-of-way. The city arborist’s health evaluation provides maintenance recommendations, which will be pursued in the current and future budget years. Land Development Code, Section 4.05.15 provides a benefit to private property owners for designating heritage trees on their property. The benefit includes 100% support for tree health evaluations every three to four years or following an emergency.
The award winning trees are listed below.
Trees located in city Rights-Of-Way
(Numbers represent listing on city’s tree inventory)
Both privately owned Heritage Trees are located on Elm Street.
Following the vote, Margaret Kirkland in representing the Amelia Tree Conservancy said, “I would like to applaud Peg Lehosit for doing all the hard work to get these trees assessed and submitted, and I’d like to applaud Kelly for getting these assessed. … I think this is a program we have underappreciated. It’s a wonderful program for educating the public, for making people aware of the value of our trees.” Kirkland cited the many values of trees emphasizing the economic value. “Don’t forget that people who have moved here at least in part for the trees. People who visit come for the environment, and trees are part of that factor. It’s really important that we send a message that our trees are important. This is one way of doing that.”
Mayor John Miller reminded audience members that one of the issues the city will be fighting during the upcoming Florida Legislative Session is an attempt by one legislator to remove tree protections via preemption.
Commissioner Philip Chapman said that the city should seriously discuss adding a full- or part-time arborist to city staff during the commission’s upcoming visioning session on January 24, 2018. Such a move would reflect the community’s recognition of the value of its trees.