City’s tree canopy exists today thanks to charter amendment

City’s tree canopy exists today thanks to charter amendment

New tree planting initiative unveiled

The gathering early on the morning of Nov. 4 at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens included a Who’s Who of arboreal preservation. Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Tree Charter Amendment, Scenic Jacksonville Inc. and Greenscape of Jacksonville, Inc. threw a party and also launched a year-long tree-planting challenge campaign.

TreesAmendment_02The campaign, Jax Digs Trees, will encourage citizens, schools, neighborhood organizations, businesses and civic groups to plant, protect and promote trees.

“The goal is to increase our tree canopy,” said Anna Dooley, Greenscape executive director. “Greenscape is here to help you.”

Dooley stated CSX is issuing a challenge to other companies to get trees out in the community and gave away 800 trees last month as part of CSX’s Trees for Tracks initiative, which plants a tree for every mile of their 27,000+ tracks nationwide.

TreesAmendment_06Rose Caven, head of the Student Involvement Committee on the Julia Landon College Preparatory School Parent, Teachers, Student Advisory board, indicated she will organize a team for the tree challenge against other middle schools.

“As part of the leadership curriculum, Landon students already participate in a wide range of service projects. Our son, Blake, has also been involved with many Greenscape plantings starting in third grade,” Caven said. “Blake will help lead the Landon tree challenge team starting in late January. The goal is to plant trees on the school campus as well as encourage students to plant trees in Jacksonville neighborhoods.”

TreesAmendment_05The Tree Charter Amendment, which passed in all voting precincts on Nov. 7, 2000, boasts the largest voter approval, at 76 percent, of any City Charter amendment, according to Fred Pope, City of Jacksonville landscape architect. It established minimum standards for tree mitigation, especially during development, and conserves and protects Jacksonville’s tree canopy.

“What you did 15 years ago made a huge difference,” said Dooley. “Because of you, today we are celebrating 15 years of improving our tree canopy. Because of you, the voters were not only informed, they were engaged. They turned out.”

The Charter Amendment efforts were spearheaded in 2000 by Susan Caven, president of Scenic Jacksonville’s board of directors; William Brinton, shareholder at Rogers Towers, P.A., and John Crescimbeni, City Council At-Large Member, who together established Citizens for Tree Preservation, Inc.

Introduced to rousing applause as a “real, real community activist” by Susan Caven, Brinton recalled a last-minute attempt by a judge to pull the amendment off the ballot, but 197,000 voters in Duval County voted in favor of the charter amendment.

According to Brinton, the story began 30 years ago when JCCI (Jacksonville Community Council, Inc.) had a visual pollution study, chaired by Doug Milne. The implementation chair was Tracey Arpen and kicked things off regarding landscape and tree protection. Although then Mayor Tommy Hazouri took the lead in enacting effective landscape and tree protection laws, they were not adequately enforced.

TreesAmendment_04“At the end of 1999, the laws were weakened to the point where a tree was protected only if it were more than six feet in diameter,” said Brinton, of Avondale. “A very rare thing to find in Jacksonville.”

Among those attending the celebration were Espie Patrinely, founder of Tree Hill Nature Center; Agnes Danciger, president of Memorial Park Association, with past MPA president Jake Ingram and his wife Pam; Bob Chabot, director of horticulture, facilities and exhibits at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens; and attorneys Tracey Arpen, Wayne Hogan, and Jim Terrell, who all gave pro bono work when lawsuits were filed to block the measure to put the Tree Charter Amendment on the Nov. 7, 2000 ballot. At the event, Hogan, Terrell and Brinton all issued challenges on behalf of their law firms for the Jax Digs Trees campaign.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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