By Brad Stager
This year’s Super Bowl LV has focused a lot of local attention on the host city of Tampa, but long after the final score of the big game is entered into the record books, Eastern Hillsborough County residents will continue to enjoy a reminder of the area’s time as a fruit bowl thanks to the National Football League’s commitment to the environment with its NFL Green program.
As part of NFL Green Week, an annual series of league-supported environmental efforts conducted in Super Bowl host cities, volunteers from Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, the local community and county staff planted about four dozen fruit trees on January 28, at Mango Recreation Center in Seffner.
More than a dozen different types of fruit trees were planted for the orchard, including key lime, mango, jackfruit and avocado varieties. The selections also reflect the Seffner community’s role in Hillsborough County’s agricultural history as a place where many fruits were once grown and local avenues still bear names like lemon, lime, plum and peach.
Debbie Evenson is the executive director of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and she said tree planting projects like this are an effective and natural way of improving the quality of life for residents.
“Trees are like the lungs of our planet. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen as well as provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. We were excited to plant a variety of fruit trees at this location, not only for the community to enjoy but for the youth who attend the after-school program there.”
Caring for the fruit trees will be integrated into the recreation center’s after-school and summer camp educational programs that teach children about nature, nutrition and gardening, according to Dana McDonald of Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation. McDonald added that the Mango Recreation Center tree planting is part of a greater goal for the county.
“We are trying to put more trees in all of our parks.”
The county’s planting effort includes Bethune Park in Wimauma, the site of another recent, substantial tree planting project undertaken by the county in partnership with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. The Mango Recreation Center orchard has the distinction of being the only planting to consist solely of fruit trees and can be found at 11717 Clay Pit Rd. in Seffner.