Annual tree planting in Boone Park provides shade for future generations

Annual tree planting in Boone Park provides shade for future generations
Billy and Melanie Dobbins with sons Walter and William and friend Kristen Sweet Gibbs with her daughter Mae and son Theodore plant a magnolia in Boone Park.

Planting a tree should be on everyone’s bucket list, according to Joe Anderson, forester for the Jacksonville Energy Authority, and 21 families apparently agreed when they signed up to plant 23 trees in Boone Park South (the 10-acre portion of the 28-acre park between St. Johns Avenue and Herschel Street) on Feb. 9.

Although this is just the second annual Love Boone Park Day, in 2015 the fledgling Friends of Boone Park South – which includes steering committee members Pamela Telis, Margaret Tocknell, Bill Jones and Melanie Dobbins – first planted over 50 trees and bushes with the help of anyone who showed up.

Unfortunately, the undertaking then was too large, the City of Jacksonville didn’t meet its commitment to water the young trees and there was a mild drought that spring, resulting in the loss of more than 50 percent of the plantings, said Telis, founder of the group.

“I started the ‘adopt-a-tree’ program last year and it worked great – every one of the 20 trees planted one year ago is living today,” said Telis. “There are no guarantees, but it was a good idea for engaging our neighbors. [After a two-year hiatus,] this is our third year of tree planting. We’re filling the gap in a succession plan for trees in our local parks that the city seems to be unable to manage.”

All the trees were donated by Greenscape of Jacksonville, who was represented that day by Becky Henson. The trees selected for planting were those which are native to the area and included two Live Oaks, four East Palatka Holly trees, five Sparkleberry and three each of Redbud, Red Cedar, American Elm and Southern Magnolia.

While most of the tree sponsors were residents who lived within a few blocks of the park, some families came from San Marco, Lakeshore and the Venetia neighborhood to help replenish the tree canopy. For most, it was a first-time event, and some gave their trees names. The magnolia is Melanie Dobbins’ father’s favorite tree, so the family named their tree “Poppa” in honor of David Solomon, while siblings Natalie, Eric and Isabella Garcia named their American Elm “Trevor.”

JEA works with the nurseries to have trees delivered and brings shovels to the event. Anderson provided directions for planting the trees, saying there were just three steps: dig a hole wide enough to fit the root ball, prepare the root ball by loosening up the roots, then cover the hole with dirt and pine straw to keep the roots warm. After planting their trees, the sponsoring families are responsible for watering their trees as needed for the first year. 

“I will never sit in the shade of these trees, but I like knowing that we are preserving the tree canopy for generations ahead!” Telis said.

To organize a similar tree planting event in other city parks, contact Greenscape at (904) 398-5757 or email

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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