FLORIDA ARBOR DAY TREE GIVEAWAY: A POST HURRICANE TREE CANOPY RESTORATION INITIATIVE
Terra Freeman, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL.
Situation: The Florida Arbor Day Tree Giveaway program aims to ameliorate the loss of urban tree canopy St. Johns County experienced due to Hurricanes Matthew and Irma by distributing free bareroot trees to county residents while educating about proper planting methods and species selection. Objective is to for 50% of trees to establish successfully.
Methods: I trained Master Gardener volunteers on plant selection and planting methods so they could effectively educate the tree recipients through consultation and distribution of literature. 1,000 trees were distributed to over 100 residents in 2017, and 1,500 trees were distributed to over 180 residents in 2018, at 5 locations throughout the county by over 20 volunteers each year.
Results: A follow-up survey was distributed 9 months after the 2017 event, and will be distributed to the 2018 tree recipients in October 2018. Survey results from the 2017 event showed 80% of the trees from 23 survey respondents were still alive 9 months (and another hurricane) later; 30% reported the event enabled them to replace trees that were lost due to a hurricane or major storm; and 100% plan to acquire new trees at future Arbor Day Tree Giveaway events.
Conclusion: A mature tree can appraise from $1,000 to $10,000; thus, the value of trees reported to have successfully established will increase to $57,000 to $570,000 at maturity. If all 1,000 trees distributed at the event survive to maturity, their value will be $1,000,000 to $10,000,000. Additionally, the trees will reduce energy costs for homes, improve property values, absorb carbon dioxide and provide erosion control. Implications of this program are positive economic and environmental impacts to the community.