The Pasco County Commission has adopted a resolution declaring Jan. 19 as Arbor Day in Pasco County, and, at the same time, they called for greater efforts to protect the county’s tree canopy.
Board members praised the work of Keep Pasco Beautiful, which is collaborating with county staff, on efforts to protect Pasco trees and to encourage tree planting.
The board adopted a resolution that details the history of Arbor Day and touts the many benefits of trees.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who sponsored the resolution, noted: “There was a time when we used to do more on Arbor Day.
“I don’t know about you,” she told her colleagues, “but when I drive by and I see all of those trees get knocked down, it’s very difficult.
“We understand development comes here, but my husband always says, ‘When you knock it down, you can always replace.’
“I think it’s really important for the county to be putting its tree canopy back in place,” Starkey said.
The first step is to document the existing canopy, Starkey said.
Kristen King, a planner in long-range planning, told the board she’s been working on the issue with Mike Woodard, the county’s arborist.
“We put together a group of people within the county to actually look at all of the different aspects of our different departments that are touching trees — whether it has to do with permitting, whether it’s dealing with parks, whether it’s dealing with public works,” she said.
The group also is looking into grant opportunities, she said.
“But first, we’re looking at our tree canopy, doing a tree canopy study,” she said.
That will involve doing a potential tree inventory, so the county can look at the issue from a strategic approach, determining what it has and where it needs to go, she added.
“So, we created what I call our Tree Dream Team,” King said.
The group also has partnered with Keep Pasco Beautiful, which is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization. Keep Pasco Beautiful has a staff member in Pasco.
The group also is working with Covanta Pasco, King said.
“On Arbor Day, we are doing a tree giveaway. We are having people preregister through the Keep Pasco Beautiful website (KeepPascoBeautiful.org).”
The free tees will be distributed on Jan. 19, at Aloha Veterans Park in Holiday and at the One Stop Shop in Dade City (see glance box for details).
The county board also approved spending $1,000 in county funds to match Keep Pasco Beautiful’s donation.
Like Starkey, other commissioners expressed the need to protect the county’s trees.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley said he has noticed that many developers come in and immediately clear the lot they plan to develop, regardless of the lot’s size.
“I’ve asked several developers that have come before me that that buffer area of 150 feet, or 100 feet, if there’s a 50- or a 100-year-old tree, please leave those trees in that buffering area, which shouldn’t affect the rest of the property,” Oakley said.
He said he understands that some trees must be removed because of elevation issues. But he added, if at all possible, he thinks developers should leave those mature trees.
“It’s something we need to keep in our county,” Oakley said. “Those 100-year and 50-year trees are very important.”
Commissioner Seth Weightman agreed: “It pains me when you see us knock down grandpa oaks – you’re talking three to four generations before they come back.
“Oak trees are important. They make our roadways a pleasure to drive on.”
Starkey also noted that the county needs to take another look at how much it charges developers who remove trees.
Currently, they pay a certain amount per inch into a fund, Starkey said. But she noted the figure hasn’t been changed in quite some time.
“I want us to take a look at that again,” she said, noting her staff is researching how other counties handle the issue.
“I think some trees need some special consideration,” Starkey said.
“I hope we will work on protecting part of what makes this county so beautiful.
“I hope we start taking the money that’s been paid to the tree mitigation fund and just start planting some trees around the county,” she added
Commissioner Jack Mariano said he’d favor spending as much as $10,000 from the county’s tree mitigation fund to provide additional trees.
Starkey listed a host of benefits that trees offer. Those include providing needed shade, reducing energy costs and protecting the environment.
“There’s just a million reasons why we need to protect our trees,” Starkey said.
Arbor Day Tree Giveaway
What: Keep Pasco Beautiful along with Covanta, Tampa Bay Water and Pasco County are giving away free trees to celebrate Arbor Day. Free trees in 1-gallon to 3-gallon pots will be given away, so they can easily be transported. An arborist will be on site to answer tree questions.
Where: Aloha Gardens Park, at 3120 Darlington Road in Holiday, and the Stallings Building, also known as the One Stop Shop, at 15029 14th St., in Dade City
When: Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You must preregister to receive a tree. Visit KeepPascoBeautiful.org for more information.
Published January 17, 2024