PANAMA CITY — Local leaders spoke for trees Friday morning during a workshop in honor of National Tree Day.
The City’s Quality of Life Department gave residents the chance to cultivate their green thumb during the “tree maintenance” session at Oakland Terrance Park. Attendees learned the importance of tree planting and the basics of pruning, taking home their very own 7-gallon winged elm tree as a parting gift. The workshop facilitators even demonstrated proper planting techniques by planting two saplings in front of the park pavilion.
Charlie Marcus, arborist with Legacy Arborist Services, said Arbor Day is meant to honor the value of trees and was first celebrated in Florida in 1872. Leading the workshop, Marcus said he hoped to leave residents with many valuable skills and knowledge.
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“What we’re trying to do for the citizens of Panama City is provide them with knowledge that they can use when planning or caring for trees on their own properties, or that they can help their neighbors with that,” Marcus said. “Or they can provide advice to their contractors who can do work for them. Or they can just be informed citizens where if they see tree abuse happening in the city, they can report people who are committing abuses. tree abuse.”
This workshop is one of the many ways the Quality of Life Department is restoring the city’s tree canopy that was destroyed by Hurricane Michael. The loss of tree canopy has harmed the community in many ways, including increased flooding and temperatures, and wildfires.
“55% of your shade in the city and about 80% of your tree population (is gone),” Marcus said. “There’s been so much more flooding since Hurricane Michael and all the trees have been lost.”
Southport resident and nature enthusiast April Farr came to Friday’s workshop to learn more about trees to help her with her recent tree-planting craze on her 2-acre lot.
She recently moved to Bay County from South Florida to help her mother and said she was saddened by the lack of trees in the area after Michael’s rampage.
“I was very, very sad to see so many trees fall. I came here right after the hurricane,” Farr said. “It’s very sad that we lost a lot of trees. I think it’s very important to start planting them because time passes and they get big. Time flies.”
By hosting events such as workshops, the city is taking a step closer to achieving its goal of restoring the tree canopy and making it better than it was Michael, officials said.
Marcus said planting trees is essential because they provide many benefits.
“They take up a lot of water and provide a number of amenities that we call ecosystem services,” Marcus said. “Through their root systems, they draw in rainwater where there isn’t as much flooding, they absorb air pollution through their leaves. They provide energy conservation values by shading the buildings. They provide wildlife habitat.”
Farr said she gained new knowledge during the workshop, adding that she wanted to know how to take care of the world around her.
“I think trees are just wonderful. I love nature,” Farr said. “And I like the shade they provide and they’re just healthy and it’s good for the birds and the squirrels.”