Residents Help ‘Green-Up’ Jacksonville Through Free City Tree Planting

Residents Help ‘Green-Up’ Jacksonville Through Free City Tree Planting

On a recent trip across the Buckman Bridge, I had a remarkable encounter with nature. I spotted a swallow-tail kite, a beautiful black-and-white bird of prey with a forked tail, soaring gracefully in the sky. As a passionate gardener and the owner of Tips Tree Planting, I have a deep appreciation for the interconnection between trees and wildlife. The sighting of this magnificent bird reminded me of the crucial role that tall trees play in providing a habitat for such species.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the Urban Forestry Department is undertaking an important mission to protect existing trees and plant numerous additional ones. By expanding the city’s tree inventory, this initiative aims to enhance bird habitats, beautify the landscape, provide much-needed shade, improve air quality, and reduce stormwater runoff, among other benefits.

To achieve this, the city is calling upon the residents and commercial landowners of Duval County to participate in the 630-CITY Tree Planting Program. Through this program, residents can request up to two trees to be planted in city-owned right-of-way areas in front of their properties. The best part? There is no cost involved. The only requirement is that tree owners water and care for them.

The idea behind the 630-CITY Tree Planting Program is to ensure that trees are planted where they are wanted and will be well-maintained by the community. Residents have the freedom to choose the ideal spot for their trees and become stewards of their well-being. Since the inception of this free tree-planting program last year, around 1,850 new trees have been planted across Jacksonville, garnering recognition from the Florida Urban Forestry Council.

One shining example of community involvement in Jacksonville’s tree-planting efforts is the case of Miramar, where resident William Woodward rallied his neighbors to participate in the program. Recognizing the immense value of this opportunity, Woodward signed up the whole street and even got his mother-in-law and her neighbors on an adjacent street to join in. The collective effort resulted in the planting of 22 new trees, including six Saucer magnolias. Woodward envisions these Saucer magnolias eventually blooming to resemble a mini-version of the iconic pink cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C.

Financing for the city’s Forestry Department and the free tree-planting program is derived from the Tree Mitigation Fund. Whenever landowners or developers need to remove trees for their projects, they must obtain city permits, and the fees collected from these permits are used to mitigate deforestation by reforesting public land throughout Jacksonville.

Upon receiving a request for a free tree, the proposed planting site in the right-of-way area is thoroughly evaluated. City staff assess whether the space can accommodate a tree and its root system without interfering with existing trees or utilities. Once approved, the Urban Forestry Department selects the appropriate tree species based on factors such as location, soil conditions, light availability, and space requirements.

To ensure a centralized distribution of new trees, the planting schedule is divided by City Council districts. While the limited staff at the Urban Forestry Department means that residents’ requests may take up to six months to fulfill, it’s important to exercise patience. The wait is certainly worth it since the trees planted are of top quality.

The tree options available for planting vary in size and species. Small trees include small-scale crepe myrtle, Eastern redbud, and sparkleberry. Medium-sized trees to choose from include lacebark elm, Southern red cedar, and Japanese blueberry. Finally, for those desiring larger trees, options include live oak, red maple, and American sycamore.

Jacksonville currently boasts approximately 500,000 street trees, with rural areas not included in this count. While there is no specific target number for the 630-CITY Tree Planting Program, the goal is to plant as many trees as possible for future generations to enjoy.

Anna Dooley, the executive director of Greenspace of Jacksonville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tree planting and preservation, commends the outstanding work of Richard Leon, Jacksonville’s urban forestry manager, and his team. Dooley highlights the significance of properly utilizing the proceeds from tree removal permits, which do not burden taxpayers. Greenspace of Jacksonville also contributes to Jacksonville’s tree planting efforts through independent fundraising, having planted 1,300 trees since October, including 500 on public school property.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the environmental importance of trees, especially as part of discussions surrounding climate change. Jacksonville has made tremendous progress in tree conservation and planting, particularly since the resolution of a lawsuit in 2017 concerning the use of the mitigation fund. With the department expanding its staff and accomplishing more, the general awareness of the need to preserve and plant trees has increased significantly.

To participate in the 630-CITY Tree Planting Program, residents can contact the Jacksonville Urban Forestry Department at 630-CITY or visit their website at Tips Tree Planting for more information. Similarly, those interested in supporting Greenspace of Jacksonville’s tree planting initiatives can get in touch by calling (904) 398-5757, emailing info@greenscapeofjacksonville.org, or visiting their website.

Residents Help ‘Green-Up’ Jacksonville Through Free City Tree Planting