Time for action! As we move along in our 2015-2016 Mount Dora City Budget year, we have to start the process of making our treescape a larger part of our culture. We are about a month into the new budget year and we need to start working on plans now so that whatever we do that, if practical, we can take advantage of the upcoming growing season.
If we don't do it, who will?
We were vocal. We worked hard to get extra funding in the budget for trees and we were successful in getting $50,000 added to the budget in mid-September. This is a substantial monetary commitment. Now we need action.
To do that, we have to make the personal commitment. Sure -- we made the collective commitment during the budgetary process to spend more on our trees. Frankly, that is just a start. Spending some of 'our' money is not the end-all.
Now is the time for us to renew our individual commitment to making Mount Dora better. From "good to great" or "excellent to the edge of perfection" -- however you see our city - the important thing is that we make it better. I know that the signs on yards this past year "An Oak for an Oak" showed the love of Mount Dora and now we have to make it happen to make our city better.
So making it better might mean a live oak. It might also mean a drake elm or even a crape myrtle and in some cases one of several types of palms might be the answer. Of course, I lean toward the live oak but I remain open to the idea that you can't put live oaks everywhere.
So how should we proceed? First, we need involvement. Why? because I am not anxious to just spend a bunch of money without getting the support of the community. That involvement can start by helping walk the entire city.
Look, over the past several months I've walked a ton of streets -- many more than once -- and I know that while our city is big, it is not too big to walk. We might also choose to work on concentric circles out from the city core -- and bite off only what is practical to walk now.
Walk we must -- to see where a tree may possibly go on city property -- most likely the area between the roadway and the sidewalks. For instance, we want to make sure that there is approximately 100 square feet for a live oak (not 1 foot x 100 feet but a reasonably shaped area). From there we have to look up and look down and sideways.
Up for power lines, other tree branches, buildings or other potential obstruction. Maybe some of those items can be moved -- but not always.
Then we have to look down -- by reading construction drawings in many cases. Are there underground utilities? Electrical, water pipes, sewer pipes and the like that will be an immediate problem or one that will make the success for mature tree less likely. No need to cram a tree there. A palm, for instance, might be the best or only solution.
Soil conditions might only be learned by digging for the root ball (so we might have to make provisions for some soil removal/replacement near roadways).
Looking sideways too -- buildings, parked cars (now and with an eye to the future) and potential visual blocking of intersections for drivers are just some of the things to look out for. Impact to the property owners must also be fairly and properly addressed also. We are not going to put a tree where it is not wanted.
So after that thoughtful review is done, we likely will have several hundred or more sites where a a tree makes sense. And by making sure we properly communicate our results that residents will see that not every, say, 10' x 10' spot can handle a certain type of tree. In my mind, I see a color coded map showing the possibilities for a tree. Or possibly a video/picture archive online showing the potential sites. I know that inspired and energetic minds can solve this.
We'll have to make sure that mono-culture issues are reviewed and then we are ready for the next level of commitment.
It seems to me that each site needs to have an advocate or sponsor. Someone who will watch out of the tree -- making sure that it is watered during the important initial period after planting and also to watch out for it -- making sure that any supports are in place, etc. From a arbor perspective this does not necessarily need to be a person 'doing' but could be just 'watching' out for it so the arborists can make sure proper care is provided when alerted.
The purchase of the trees need not be gigantic caliper sizes -- we can be thrifty and stay small so that we can make more trees happen -- seeing the future grow in front of us is the goal.
We might be able to say that an X inch caliper tree is the standard costing Y dollars from the City Budget but if you as a sponsor want to donate Z dollars we will increase the size of the tree to make the timeline move along. We might have an 'adopt a tree' sponsorship program to increase the funding. We can make $50,000 turn into a much larger number with some great marketing savvy. This is where some good business sense comes into play.
It would be great if we could have residents doing the digging and planting but I know that there are a myriad of legal and logistic issues that might not make that possible. But -- I bet we can figure out a way for the advocacy or sponsorship to work in some way to get the involvement.
Many of us worked very hard to get more funding in the budget. We need to move forward -- make a plan and then act on it. So in the coming weeks we will see some actions and we need your involvement -- I know you are out there - I saw you as the several tree meetings this spring and summer. Now is the time to come out and make wonderful things happen for Mount Dora.
With your support, I can make the motion from the City Council -- rather than just from the citizen podium. So I ask for your advocacy and sponsorship now. Please get out to vote. Early voting is 10 am - 6 pm through Saturday, October 31st (at WT Bland Library) and then Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd where you vote at your precinct polling station.
Please not only vote but make sure you make sure that your fellow tree-loving resident -- who might not even know where to go -- gets out to vote.
I look forward to being your advocate for, among other things, trees. Together we can continue to make Mount Dora a wonderful place for us and future generations.