by Mike Sharkey
Shortly after World War II, the residents of Jacksonville were given thousands of trees to plant all over town, mostly in public places. Many of those trees were laurel oaks and, unfortunately, they have a lifespan of about 60 years.
In an effort to replenish the trees that are dying in areas all around town, the City and Greenscape are partnering to promote the Great Greenscape Tree Giveaway. Starting at 7 a.m. on Feb. 24, you can pick up a free tree from Lot J at Alltel Stadium. Overall, 20,000 trees of several species — red maple, river birch, dogwood, crepe myrtle, little gem magnolia, sweetbay magnolia, nuttal oak, live oak, bald cypress and drake elm — will be given away. Also, the first 100 kids that show up will get a seedling from the historic Treaty Oak in San Marco.
Mayor John Peyton hosted the giveaway announcement. As a past board member of Greenscape, Peyton has been a part of several tree giveaways.
“Greenscape is a small, well-intended group with a lot of people with good intentions. Their efforts to raise awareness have changed public policy on how we treat public space,” said Peyton, adding past tree sales have been “great successes. Greenscape has helped plant over 150,000 trees since 1988. This is a phenomenal gesture of goodwill.”
Anna Dooley is the executive director of Greenscape and will oversee the Great Tree Giveaway. She said trees and a healthy canopy increase property values and raise a neighborhood’s quality of life.
While national Arbor Day is in April, Friday was Arbor Day in the state of Florida. Dooley said each city may also declare its own Arbor Day, and Peyton officially slated the holiday for Feb. 24 in Jacksonville.
The following individuals and corporations are sponsoring the tree giveaway: Florida Division of Forestry, Ann M. Baker, Peggy and J.F. Bryan, CSX, Fidelity Information Services, Florida Rock Industries, the Florida Times-Union, the Jacksonville Port Authority, Gasper and Irene Lazzara Charitable Foundation, Russell B. and Joan Stein Newton, OE&S, Ch. 4 and the City of Jacksonville.