Dark sky and cold temperatures didn’t put a damper on Apalachicola’s Arbor Day event at the Jan. 22 Farmers Market.
The city-appointed Tree Committee gave away 84 trees, 36 live oaks, 28 bald cypresses, 10 sweetbay magnolias, and 10 sycamores, all provided by the Florida Forest Service. The FFS’s Emily Martin, the forester who works out of Crawfordville to serve both Wakulla and Franklin counties, and Alex Sklovronky, who works out of Tate’s Hell State Forest, coordinated to secure and distribute the free tees.
In addition to the participation by the forest service, University of Florida-IFAS Extension Agent Erik Lovestrand and local master gardeners gave advice on tree planting and care.
The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Antia Grove handed out information on Apalachicola Bay-friendly landscaping. Because yard design and maintenance can have a big effect on adjacent water bodies, these techniques enable homeowners to transform their yards into low-maintenance, luscious bay-conscious landscapes that attract birds and wildlife. This landscaping can feature innovative infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, green roofs, and bioswales.
Bring Me a Book – Franklin, led by Karen Kessel, gave children free books on plants and other subjects.
“We are glad to promote the planting of trees through this free tree giveaway,” said Dennis Winterringer, chairman of the tree committee. “Once they are established, these trees will be a valuable asset to this community in that they will provide shade, reduce stormwater runoff, and increase property values.”
The three other members of the committee include Pam Richardson, Frederic Kahler and Bob Seaborn. The application of a potential fourth member, Scott Davis, will be up for consideration at the Apalachicola city commission’s Feb. 8 meeting.
The tree committee meets monthly, on the third Tuesday, at 3 p.m. at the Battery Park community center. The public is welcome to attend.
“This Arbor Day event is one of our main things we do,” said Winterringer. “We have kind of been constrained the last couple of years because of COVID.”
The coronavirus pandemic has cut into the committee’s planting schedule, which has been put on hold over the past two years.
“That will be gradually increasing,” said Winterringer. “In the future we’re going to be looking to do some planting in city-owned space in squares, parks, and street rights-of-way.
“There’s been some talk between the tree committee and the recreation committee to eventually come up with a landscaping plan, but that hasn’t been done to date,” he said. “I think that’s really what needs to happen, that the city has a landscaping plan for those two parks, Battery and Lafayette.”
Tree planting would be funded by monies from the city’s Reforestation Fund, which are accrued from fees that are required when property owners cut down a protected tree. As of Nov. 24, 2021, the fund had $7,200 in it.
“Usually it’s a $25 or $35 fee, depending on the size of the tree,” Winterringer said, noting that there’s a much heftier $1,000 fee in the event someone wished to cut down a patriarch tree, one in which there’s a diameter at breast height of greater than 35 inches.
“That’s never occurred, no one’s ever asked to cut down a live oak,” he said.”The large fine is to discourage someone from even thinking of cutting down a patriarch tree.”
The fees for individual trees are designated for species that include bald and pond cypress, astern and southern red cedar), live oak, longleaf pine, pecan, sabal (cabbage) palm, slash pine, southern magnolia, sycamore, and water oak.
To fell a tree with a diameter of between 4 and 16 inches at breast height, which is equivalent to 4 1/2 feet above ground level, costs a fee of $25. Those with diameters of greater than 16 inches but less than 35 inches are assessed a fee of $35, also per tree.
Those with questions, seeking more information or wishing to report possible violations, are asked to call the city’s code enforcement offices, Angela Creamer, at (850) 653-8222 or by email to [email protected]