Keep America Beautiful grant helps Florida affiliate restore John Prince Park in Lake Worth, Florida
When Hurricane Irma hit Palm Beach County, Florida, in September 2017, it affected the county’s tree canopy as well as residents and their homes. The county hadn’t yet fully recovered from the canopy loss of the hurricanes that hit the area in 2004 and 2005. It was once again faced with the harsh reality that the many non-native trees planted throughout the years weren’t well-adapted to high winds – and, in some places, those trees could cause a lot of damage.
Losing so much canopy — whether non-native or not — was detrimental to the community in many ways. The trees provide much-needed shade in hot, sunny Florida, but they also improve air quality, ameliorate climate change, conserve water, preserve soil, and support wildlife. Therefore, the challenge for Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful (KPBCB) was to assist in the process of restoring the native tree canopy — in the right places — to replace some of the canopy loss.
One particular area hard hit by the hurricane was John Prince Park, a 727-acre county park that lost a significant number of trees along walking paths and in its campground area. Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful applied for and received a $10,000 Keep America Beautiful Community Restoration and Resiliency Fund grant to place live oak trees in the park. With the grant and the help of a local contractor, KPBCB, in partnership with the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, planted 20 larger live oak trees, with the excavation and mulching necessary to do the planting properly.
Lourdes Ferris, executive director of KPBCB, indicated that they chose the live oak for several reasons. “First, it is native to Florida,” she said, “and most importantly, its deep roots, relatively short stature and strong wood help it to withstand the high winds and strong storm surges that topple other trees during hurricanes.”
Ferris also indicated that the trees provide habitat for wildlife. Sweet, tapered acorns produced by the trees are eaten by birds and mammals, including sapsuckers, mallards, wild turkeys, squirrels, black bears, and deer. The threatened Florida scrub jay relies on the scrub from the southern live oak for nesting. Other birds make use of the moss that frequently hang from the tree branches to construct nests.