Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plants Stolen off I-10 Roadside Shrubs Taken

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plants Stolen off I-10 Roadside Shrubs Taken

Article excerpt

A plant nabber is loose in Jacksonville.

The Grinch may not have stolen Christmas this year, but someone has absconded with at least 50 shrubs and other greenery planted along a main corridor into the city.

In early December, 120 volunteers spent five hours landscaping the intersection of Interstate 10 and Roosevelt Boulevard.

"We wanted to give people driving into our town a great first impression," said Anna Dooley, executive director of Greenscape of Jacksonville, the non-profit group that coordinated the $172,000 project.

Now Greenscape is having to replace some of those plants "with the hope that we don't have to do it forever," Dooley said. To prevent the thievery from continuing, Greenscape is asking residents to report suspicious activity to police.

And police will be on the alert as they patrol the area, said Assistant Chief George Bennett.

"If it's 50 plants, this is a strong signal that this is not a resident redoing a yard," Bennett said. "Fifty sounds like somebody is using them on a job site."

Dooley said the theft was particularly brazen because the interchange is a heavily traveled corridor with motorists moving at high speeds.

"It's a crazy thing for someone to pull off the side of this busy road and endanger themselves and other motorists to steal plants," she said.

Dooley said she feels bad for the volunteers who labored on what was a strenuous undertaking. Working on a steep incline in the heat, they planted crape myrtles, junipers, oleanders, wax myrtles, wild flowers, palmettos and pampas grass.

While it was gratifying to see how well the 3 1/2-acre landscaping project turned out, volunteer Denise McGlynn agreed it was hard work.

"I've never had to dig a slanted hole before," she said.

Indeed, the incline was so steep the volunteers occasionally appeared to be lying down, Dooley said. Among them was City Councilman Jim Overton, who helped obtain funding for the project.

Dooley and others said it undermines their beautification efforts.

"To me, it's sad that people can't appreciate that we were trying to beautify the entryway into our city and that they feel they have the right to take the plants," said Sally Lee, a Greenscape board member who helped conceive the project. …

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