Naples’ tight budget year won’t leave tree-planting facing the ax

By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Naples, FL (July 1, 2010)- The budget for planting trees in Naples may not be growing, but city officials said it likely won’t be trimmed. The city’s community services department recently asked Naples City Council to include $100,000 in the city’s fiscal 2011 budget for its tree fill-in and replacement program. That would give the department the same amount of money for tree replacement next year as it has this year. It’s also a sum city officials are hoping to keep in place for the next five years, even as the city continues to face budget crunches.

“I would rank that in the very important category,” City Manager Bill Moss said about the city’s tree budget. “This is a Tree City USA city, and people like, and appreciate, good quality landscaping that’s attractive and will be maintained.” The city typically plants between 250 and 300 trees each year, said David Lykins, the city’s community services director. Each tree, Lykins told council last week, comes with a price tag of between $320 and $400.

The tree fill-in program has been in place for several years, but Joe Boscaglia, the city’s tree specialist, said it has evolved to focus on removing trees that are highly susceptible to disease. City officials currently are focused on removing the city’s 368 Queen palms. “They are susceptible to several diseases that are highly contagious (and we’re trying to) help stem the spread,” Boscaglia said. “It’s a proactive program by the city to try and get our trees out of the ground to stop the spread of the disease.”

That project is ongoing, and City Council recently approved a not-to-exceed contract of $100,000 to Hannula Landscaping and Irrigation Inc. for the removal and replacement project. While the Queen replacement project is going on throughout the city, Boscaglia said the majority of the trees being replaced this year are in Park Shore. The department in 2009 requested only $25,000 for the replacement program, but the council increased the fiscal 2010 budget to $100,000.

“Even at $100,000, that’s barely replacing what was lost in the past year,” Moss said. The city already has lost about 150 trees to attrition. The city also lost 150 coconut palms because of the cold winter weather, Lykins said. While Naples has a fund set aside specifically for tree replacement, Collier County government doesn’t have a specific tree replacement program. Camden Smith, a spokeswoman for Collier County’s public services division, said each of the county’s parks have maintenance budgets, which handle things like mowing, turf replacement and tree replacement. Trees in the median – which in Naples are paid for using the city’s community service budget – are paid for by the county’s transportation department, Smith said.

Connie Deane, spokeswoman for Collier County transportation, said the department doesn’t have “a specific pot of money” for replacing trees. Deane said those expenditures are often included in the county’s landscape beautification master plan – which covers the county’s major roadways – and some municipal service taxing units. While money is needed to keep the program going, it’s also needed to ensure the city can participate in the Tree City USA program.

Started by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976, the Tree City USA program is meant to acknowledge communities that practice outstanding tree care. Naples has been a tree city for more than 12 years.
“It’s a pretty huge designation,” Boscaglia said of the honor. Communities need to meet four standards to be named a tree city, including having a tree advisory board and a tree-care ordinance. Cities also need to have an annual urban forestry budget of at least $2 per capita.

Boscaglia said the city meets all of the criteria, and he isn’t concerned whether meeting the funding requirements will be a problem in the future. Neither is Moss, who recently said he believes council will do its best to keep money in the budget for the replacement program. “I think we would try to do away with something else before we start decreasing the streetscape.” Moss said.

Related Resources:
Naples Daily News- Naples’ tight budget year won’t leave tree-planting facing the ax