Tampa park gets new trees for Florida Arbor Day

01/18/13 Janelle Irwin
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The City of Tampa is planting trees today in honor of Florida Arbor Day. Students and city employees planted three American Liberty Elm trees at MacFarlane Park on North MacDill Avenue Friday morning.

“Well, I think the most important thing is to recognize that the city of Tampa has been Tree City recipient for over thirty years – I think 35 years or close to it – which means we have a very aggressive and positive tree-planting program and tree care program in the city.”

That’s Tampa’s director of Parks and Recreation, Greg Bayor. National Arbor Day isn’t celebrated until April, but each state can celebrate its own day anytime throughout the year. Florida has held its Arbor Day in January since 1886. Bayor said the city chose to plant trees in MacFarlane Park because the park has lost several recently.

“The storm this year – Debbie – took out trees everywhere and we have some old aged trees which we’re replacing in here. If you take a look over on the side street there, there’s several of the large oaks which hardly have any canopy left in them at all and so they’ll have to come down.”

Bayor said the city also hopes to put fallen and removed trees to good use.

“We’re actually looking for a, maybe trying to find a tree carver if any of them are still solid enough and we’ll turn them into art so we’ll like to re-purpose them.”

The trees planted today were barren. They looked like sticks being plopped into the ground. But Rob Irving, the coordinator of Tampa’s Urban Forestry department said the American Liberty Elms will provide shade and color to the park for years to come.

“They’re a specific variety that is resistant to Dutch Elm disease which pretty much wiped out most of the Elms up north. These are specific, certified Elms – they actually have a tag number for them – and we planted one other one in the city and we planted three here today.”

Three trees doesn’t seem like much considering the first National Arbor Day in Nebraska in the late 1800s resulted in thousands of trees being planted. But Irving said it’s important to make sure there are plenty of trees in urban environments where knocking them down doesn’t seem like a big deal.

“It would be a lot hotter and there is a psychological effect on green on humans. Humans like to have green, or people like to have green around them and it helps soothe and calm them.”

Students from neighboring MacFarlane Park Elementary School kicked off the celebration with violin and singing performances. Some of the students helped dig holes for the trees. Cameron Barnes, one of the violinists, helped plunge a gold-painted shovel into the ground. He said he learned that planting trees is important because they give air and shade.

“It will go a long way through time periods and I bet my family and my children and the people that go on from my family will see it.”

Trees in urban settings also reduce energy consumption, remove pollutants from the air and reduce storm water flow. Cities earn Tree City U.S.A. designation by having a tree ordinance in place, celebrating Arbor Day and having an urban forestry program. The city of St. Petersburg is also designated as a Tree City.

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What cute children!