Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tree-Planting Effort Expands Exponentially; Longleaf Pines at Pumpkin Hill Part of Nonprofit's Burgeoning Objective

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tree-Planting Effort Expands Exponentially; Longleaf Pines at Pumpkin Hill Part of Nonprofit's Burgeoning Objective

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

When a nonprofit environmental group got its start at the One Spark festival in 2014 with the objective of planting 1,000 trees in Duval County, there was little guarantee of exceeding that figure.

But 10,000 Trees Jax, along with the North Florida Land Trust, demonstrated Saturday that the group exceeded far beyond its expectations as it began planting 3,500 longleaf pine trees at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park on the Northside. Saturday was just the first tree-planting with 20 volunteers and another tree planting is set for Jan. 30 at the park.

"This is really important because this is the inaugural planting," said Viktor El-Saieh, a co-founder and organizer of 10,000 Trees Jax, which used to be called 1,000 Trees Jax.

"This sends a message for the rest of our campaign that we're serious about it and we're really up to planting 10,000 trees," El-Saieh said.

10,000 Trees Jax uses donations to buy the seedlings and then volunteers use what's called a dibble - a metal tool about the length of a spade - to punch a hole in the ground a few inches deep which makes for easy planting of the seedlings. The group spent about $650 for over 1,000 of the seedlings planted Saturday.

The 4,000-acre Pumpkin Hill park was selected because officials there had a prescribed burn this year to clear out dangerous brush and other threats to the habitat on the preserve.

Meghan Harris is the environmental specialist for the Florida Park Service for the Talbot Islands that oversees Pumpkin Hill park and said they are thrilled with the 10,000 Trees Jax effort.

"In the past a timber company had owned the property," Harris said. "We're replacing the longleaf [pines]. ... Having these trees will be very useful.

"This reverted to a scrubby, hardwood oak and palmetto area," Harris said. …

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