West Palm Beach: “Vegetation Vigilante” going out on a limb to fix stalled out beautification project

Photo: WPTV, West Palm Beach
“People are going out on a limb to make a statement about beautification on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach.

And it’s turned into a unique and fun display of public disobedience.

‘Someone has to “bark” at them,’ said Jim Kovalsky, who has spoken out about empty tree pits on Clematis Street and Dixie Highway. ‘The rest of the planters along this section all have trees.’

But these particular plots across the street from city hall do not have trees and have been this way for at least a year, according to downtown residents.

‘It’s basically become a tripping hazard with no tree in them when we’re trying to have walkability,’ said Kovalsky.

And that’s why a “vegetation vigilante” decided to plant some trees themselves. It’s unknown who put the trees there.

Kovalsky and his friends added to the fun, by decorating it like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

‘Bring some attention in a different way,’ he said. ‘It kind of just branched out from there.’

The trees started a buzz on social media.

‘And very quickly after that, both trees unceremoniously disappeared,’ said Kovalsky.

And then, in place of the trees — a graveyard appeared.

‘It said “RIP Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I have no idea who put that there,’ chuckled Kovalsky.

Here’s some good news — Mayor Jeri Muoio has identified a million dollars to increase tree benefits throughout the city.

According to the city, the focus of this dedication is to support of West Palm Beach Net Zero Green House Gas Emissions by 2050 Initiative and to improve the walkability and bikeability of the downtown space and connectors by increasing shade.

To do this, West Palm beach is concentrating on planting 20 ft. shade trees throughout the community, using native Florida trees and selecting a wide variety of acceptable shade tree species. Howard Park will be receiving 10 new trees in the coming weeks. Working with Florida Power and Light, the City of West Palm Beach is planting the trees to complement the solar tree structures which were recently installed. That project will be completed by late August or early September…”

— Alanna Quillen, WPTV, West Palm Beach
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“Protecting Florida’s Waters by Planting Trees”

“Protecting Florida’s Waters by Planting Trees”

Photo: WGCU Pixabay

“We’re looking at a preemptive approach to reducing the possibility of harmful algae blooms by reducing the amount of nutrients from stormwater runoff that wind up in the water in the first place — by planting trees. A local nonprofit called OneTree, whose mission is to plant one new tree, per person, per year, is turning its sights on our water crisis through what’s called riparian restoration.

That means planting native trees in natural lower lying terrain, where water flows during rainfall, in order to slow runoff and capture freshwater pollutants. They planted 500 trees a few weeks ago, and have plans to plant more. We’re joined by Wil Revehl, Advancement Director for One Tree; and Kraig Hankins, Environmental Biologist for the City of Cape Coral.”

— Mike Kiniry and Julie Glenn, WGCU
Listen to program here

“How planting trees is helping to solve the water crisis in SWFL”

“How planting trees is helping to solve the water crisis in SWFL”

Photo: Abc-7.com
“More than fifty people spent the morning planting hundreds of trees in Cape Coral to help with the water crisis in Southwest Florida.

The event was originally intended to help with deforestation, but more roots in the ground could help prevent future water problems.

Trees work as filtration systems, soaking up fertilizers, metals, pesticides and other dangerous chemicals we don’t want in our waterways.

‘This water crisis is so heartbreaking we want to make sure Floridian’s are aware of the filtration services that trees provide,’explained Wil Revehl, the Advancement Director of the Future Forestry Foundation.

Five hundred trees were planted in Cape Coral along Veterans Memorial Parkway on Saturday.

FGCU professors said that the algae crisis impacting the water is caused by an excessive amount of nutrients polluting our water. They said while planting trees won’t solve the issue, it’ll definitely help.

‘If we all just get more trees into the ground, whether they’re on the watershed or not, they will make a difference,” said Revehl.

Jason Pim is a volunteer ranger with the Calusa Waterkeeper. He said trees naturally soak up nitrogen and phosphorous pollution.

‘The sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are from our watershed and Lake Okeechobee upriver, but we still need to do a lot here locally to keep fertilizers, pesticides, and sprays out of our water,’ said Pim

Members of the future forestry foundation said more than 10 million trees are chopped down every year in Lee County for new development projects and construction.

‘The sheer volume of deforestation in Lee County from development is so astronomical,’said Revehl.

On Earth Day, the Future Forestry Foundation initiated a new project to help with deforestation. It’s called ‘1 million trees for Lee County.’ So far, they’ve planted more than 10,000 trees. Their goal is to repair, restore, and replenish.

Revehl explained, ‘Putting trees where the water is flowing so we can have these trees do a lot more work to protect our waterways.”

‘I’m very solely focused on this water issue if we can’ get that corrected we stand to lose our way of life,’says Pim.

You don’t have to be part of an organization to help out the environment; you can plant a tree anywhere.”

— Ashley Dyer, ABC-7.com
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Legal: “Trees for the planting, thanks to tree mitigation fund”

Legal: “Trees for the planting, thanks to tree mitigation fund”

Photo: Resident Community News

“If you’ve always wanted or needed to plant a tree in the right-of-way in front of your property, now you can, thanks to the City of Jacksonville’s tree settlement with a variety of civic groups in July 2017.

The suit filed in 2015 by the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida challenged the city’s use of the Tree Mitigation Trust Fund established in 2000 by charter amendment. Developers pay into the fund when they cut down trees and the money is supposed to be used to mitigate the loss by paying for new trees to be planted elsewhere in Duval County.

Although the $20 million settlement provides funds for trees to be replaced or added to public property, including that strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk in front of your home, each request for a tree requires that a bill be filed for approval by the Jacksonville City Council…”

— Kate A. Hallock,Resident Community News

Read details on how to apply here

“FPL looks to cities, counties to regulate tree trimming for next storm season”

“FPL looks to cities, counties to regulate tree trimming for next storm season”

Photo: Sun Sentinel

“Toppled trees left many South Florida residents in the dark after Hurricane Irma…

Ninety percent of FPL’s customers, or 13 million people, lost power as a result of Irma.

One of those people without power for 10 days was Broward County Commissioner (and former Broward Mayor) Barbara Sharief, and she’s determined that’s not going to happen again — at least not because of overgrown trees.

Sharief is proposing an ordinance that would fine property owners who violate FPL’s ‘Right Tree, Right Place’ program.

Expected to be on the Broward commission’s agenda in April or early May, the ordinance would fine owners $500 if they fail to relocate, replace or remove trees that don’t meet the ‘Right Tree’ code, and $500 if a property owner fails to properly prune an existing tree that may violate the code, or fails to notify FPL of a tree that can’t be brought to code..

Parkland adopted a similar ordinance after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma…

 In a letter by FPL attorney Kenneth Rubin to the Public Service Commission, FPL estimated it would cost $8 million to $9 million more to trim half the territory every two years, instead of a third every three years, which is currently the practice.

‘Legislation, particularly at the local level (e.g., municipal and county ordinances), could be enacted that restricts the type and location of vegetation that can be planted in the vicinity of power lines. Legislation could also provide electric utilities additional rights to address existing vegetation conditions on customers’ property that impede operation or maintenance of utility facilities,’ wrote Rubin in his response to state regulators’ questions regarding recent hurricane damage.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams said he would like to see the county and FPL work together on the issue.

‘We’re a heavily landscaped county. There are some old neighborhoods where the trees have been existing for ages,’ he said.

Norm Easey, CEO of the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture in Sarasota, said FPL does a good job of vegetation management in the state, but ‘we don’t help ourselves. There are many communities that are OK with planting huge trees underneath power lines.’

Still, the overgrowth is not completely the fault of cities or homeowners, Easey said, adding that FPL has been known to put in a power line ‘where maybe they shouldn’t. If you don’t have your ducks in a row, don’t put in the power line.’

…FPL and other electric utility customers can provide feedback online at Floridapsc.com. To leave a comment, click on ‘Consumer Comments on Hurricane Preparedness and Restoration’ in red letters…”

— Marcia Heroux Pounds,Sun Sentinel

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Legal: In Kenya, county “pulls down billboards of firms that illegally fell or poison trees”

Legal: In Kenya, county “pulls down billboards of firms that illegally fell or poison trees”

Photo: Collins Langat, The Star, Kenya
“The county says it will pull down billboards owned by at least five advertising firms, which it says are notorious for illegally felling trees on major roads. It plans to start this week.

Some trees even have been poisoned by toxic chemicals poured on the soil, county officials said…

The county said it will start pulling down all board standing near felled trees to ‘discipline’ companies for the illegal act.

‘This can start anytime. We cannot tolerate this,’ Agriculture executive Danvas Makori said.

‘We are going to arrest anybody cutting down trees for billboards and bring down those billboards. We’re not going to permit billboards if it means a tree or even a branch has to be cut off to put up a billboard,” he said…

‘They are now pouring chemicals under trees and after a short time, trees start withering and die. This is a new trick’ he said.

Agriculture committee chairman John Mwangi called the tree felling regrettable and said he would demand a comprehensive report.

He said the Finance sector is auditing to establish the number of billboards that are not permitted and for which companies have not paid taxes.

Ex-Governor Evans Kidero issued a similar caution following rampant felling of trees. He ordered the removal of billboards interfering with trees.’

— Julius Otieno,The Star, Kenya

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