On February 29th, Oakland Park had a tree giveaway at Wimberly Athletic Field, at 4000 NE 3rd Avenue. Twice a year, residents and business owners line up to receive free trees and shrubs given away by the city. What’s great about this is that only native (N) and Florida-friendly (FF) shrubs and trees are given to the community in an effort to help restore and preserve the natural ecosystem. This is such a generous and valuable offering we get being Oakland Park residents: one that only helps the environment, beautifies our city and enhances land value. The trees will eventually provide important canopy cover and become homes to birds and native tree dwellers. The shrubs provide an understory that protects birds and animals during storms, as well as provides berries that feed and flowers to help insects and pollinators.
I spoke with Ralph Calargia, an Oakland Park Beautification Advisory Board member and volunteer, and asked him why he felt it was so important for Oakland Park to host a tree give away. He said :
“We are a tree canopy city. We want to make sure that we are greening our city and making it as healthy as possible. The way to do that is to provide people the opportunity to do that on that their own property but also to give people an impetus to bring more green and life to their properties and neighborhoods”.
It was more than just a tree and shrub give away. There were 8 different stations designed to help you navigate the whole process. Station 1 required you show proof of residency or proof of business. FPL was at Station 2 to help you find the right tree for the right space in your yard. Station 3 showed you the proper way to plant your new selections. Station 4 teaches you all about watering and aftercare.
By the time I got to Station 5, I felt very confident in making the right decision and this station is where you get to make your selections. The trees all come in 3 or 7 gallon pots and are young, but can grow into small, medium or large in size. The small tress offered were the Jamaican Caper, the Dahoon Holly and the Orange Geiger. The medium size trees were the Verawood and the Gumbo Limbo, and the large ones were the Florida Slash Pine and the Live Oak. The shrubs were all Florida natives and were milkweed, Beautyberry, Firebush and Walter’s Viburnum. If you want the best selection, I recommend you get there super early, like I did, before the stock becomes depleted. I can say that there were more trees and shrubs being offered this time so it wasn’t so important to arrive early, but I still like to have an abundance to choose from.
Ralph said, “The milkweed is pretty popular because it produces the nectar for the monarch butterfly and a lot of people choose the Live Oak, a great shade tree. Sometimes in the summer we offer a fruit tree like mango.”
Station 6 had the Oakland Park Garden Club and the National Wildlife Federation on-hand to answer any questions about the selections as well as to offer gardening tips and advice. The Urban Farming Institute was at Station 7 discussing all their upcoming classes and educational programs and the Broward Sheriff’s Office was at Station 8. I even got a packet of pollinator wildflower mix to take home.
“I think the residents should take advantage of this event. It’s more than just a give away. It’s also place for information on vegetation and a place to see and meet your neighbors, the city commissioners and volunteers. This year, we met a group of guys on a frisbee league that utilize Oakland Park to play their matches, and they wanted to give back to the city so they volunteered for the give away. These guys came and helped us out and a lot of them were runners. It’s a great place for meeting people.”
Through our City Volunteer Corps., the City also supplies The Tree Assistance Program, which was created to help residents who require special assistance in the delivery and planting of trees throughout the city. To learn more about this program, please call Bruce Garrison at (954) 630-4502.
For more information on the next tree give away, please call Lyzabeth Fiore, the city’s horticulturalist, at (954) 630-4420.
Steven Mayer is a local Floridian who grew up in the South Corals area of Oakland Park most of his life. He attended Rickards Middle, Northeast High and earned his B.A. in English from FAU. He’s done some writing and editorial work for a south Florida lifestyle magazine and is proud to have been a partner with Starbucks for a total of 18 years.
After testing out a couple U.S. cities in his twenties, Steven realized that nothing beats home, and eventually settled back down in the Downtown Oakland Park area with his partner Douglas (another Oakland Park native), their three Pekinese dogs and two beautiful cats.
Steven enjoys anything Disney, vegan cooking, going for runs, attending local festivals, traveling, and game nights with friends and family.