Today, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced in his blog
today that he intends to do "everything within our legal authority as a City to protect the historic tree at Constitution Green."
The tree, a giant oak estimated to be 175 years old, is threatened by development – the owners of Constitution Green Park, which is privately owned but has been leased by the city since 1987 and maintained as a public park, want to sell the property for development. Residents and environmentalists have started a petition
and plan to hold a rally at the park, located at the corner of Summerlin Avenue and South Street, on Saturday, March 21, to demand that the park be purchased by the city and preserved as greenspace.
In his statement, Dyer also suggests that Orlando residents consider planting trees of their own to help increase the city's tree canopy: "if the 4,000 people who signed the petition to protect this tree planted a tree on their property today," he wrote, "in 10 years we would add 2.8 million square feet of tree canopy coverage. That’s the equivalent of adding a 60 acre forest in the City of Orlando."
And for those who really do want to walk the walk, Orange County even has a program for 2015 in which residents can get two free trees to help do just that. The UF/IFAS Extension in Orange County is hosting free tree events throughout the year, in which county residents can show up and pick up two trees to plant at home. Check the schedule here.
Dyer's statement on the tree and the park is below:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the potential removal of the historic live oak tree on Constitution Green. And that conversation is happening for good reason; it’s a beautiful tree on a fantastic green space in the heart of Downtown Orlando.
For a City that is known as the City Beautiful, we should do everything we can to preserve this historic tree.
The Constitution Green property is privately owned and we have been fortunate that the owner has leased this space to the City since 1987 for our community to use as green space in our downtown.
Recently, I’ve been made aware that the property owners would like to develop this property. While they have rights to build on their private property, they should not be allowed to remove a historic tree.
As Mayor, I will make sure we do everything within our legal authority as a City to protect the historic tree at Constitution Green.
The City has long been committed to preventing the environmental and aesthetic harm inflicted on our community by the destruction of trees, and particularly historic trees.
It is for that reason that our City adopted a tree protection ordinance. Our City Code provides that a healthy tree with a trunk caliper larger than 30” in diameter can qualify as a historic tree.
While I’m not an arborist, anyone who’s familiar with this tree can tell you that it appears to easily meet the size requirement. In fact, we have listed the live oak on our significant tree map.
Orlando’s neighborhoods are known for having clean tree-lined streets, plentiful lakes, strong neighborhood connections and well-landscaped parks. It’s important for us as a City to keep as much of our green space and tree canopy as possible.
Project DTO recently identified the need for more green space and trees in downtown Orlando.
In 2013 our Green Works task force recommended we should almost double our City’s tree coverage. This increase needs to come from new trees being planted, but it’s also important that we protect our historic trees.
I invite you to be part of our solution by planting a tree that will help us to increase our tree canopy.
Think about this, if the 4,000 people who signed the petition to protect this tree planted a tree on their property today, in 10 years we would add 2.8 million square feet of tree canopy coverage. That’s the equivalent of adding a 60 acre forest in the City of Orlando.
Our City offers free trees to be planted on your property along the City street to help make our neighborhoods an even better place to live. Click here to request one today.
I’m optimistic that together we can not only save this historic tree but that we can continue to increase the amount of trees we have in our City and live up to our reputation as “The City Beautiful”.