By Tamas Mondovics

The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPC) was pleased to partner with the Parks and Recreation Department of Hillsborough County to honor Florida Arbor Day last month by means of plating a new oak tree at Sadie Park in Brandon.

While the originally scheduled tree-planting ceremony had to be postponed due to inclement weather, EPC and County representatives along with citizens and park visitors, were able to gather a few days later to celebrate the special day.

“We are so excited about being a part of this celebration,” said Janet Dougherty, the third executive director in Hillsborough County EPC’s 45-year history, who accepted the job May of last year.

Dougherty emphasized the reason for the planting of the new oak at the Brandon Park adjacent to the playground when she said, “This is the 40th anniversary of Arbor Day and that is why we are celebrating it today and we will be celebrating every year. This will be an ongoing effort, which includes planting and giving out trees and help the air and the water.”

The new oak tree was generously donated by Kim’s Wholesale Nursery and replaced a mature 200-year-old oak, which provided shade for the children and other visitors to the park, but became sick and recently fell.

The event was a great day for University of Florida Extension Forrester Robert Northrop, who has been protecting, conserving, managing and restoring trees and forests for the past 35 years.

“I have planted more than a million trees in my life and it’s one of my favorite things really,” Northrop said. “It is great to see a tree grow, change over the years and to see the value it has for the community. It’s a good feeling for me.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White was also on hand for the ceremony, and spoke highly of Kim’s Nursery’s generosity.

“It’s a live oak which will be here and grow for another couple centuries,” White said. “We have so many benefits of trees. They decrease our energy bills and our water consumption, increase our property values. There is a lot of good reasons to get out there and plant a tree on Arbor Day.”

Florida celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of January, the optimal time to plant trees in Florida. For more information, residents may contact the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, 627-2600 or visit www.epchc.org.