“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Those are the famous words sung by Joni Mitchell, echoing a society nervously aware of the de-greening of their cities. Where squirrels, birds, bees, and children had once frolicked amongst trees and flowers in wide open spaces, a cement fortress was forming and the justification of money and progress over nature was beginning.
Of course, we have seen an alarming uptick of the paving over of Sarasota County. The irony of the immense beauty of the area being the main draw for the millions of people who make the trek here for vacations is that little by little, we are cutting down, mowing, destroying, and paving over our green spaces to make way for headway. It begs the question, once we remove the beauty and natural elements, will the people go elsewhere to spend their much-coveted dollars on tourism? Thank goodness they cannot pave the Gulf of Mexico; I guess we have some time left.
In North Port, a decades-old grassroots effort to protect and maintain the area’s tree canopy has proven successful. People For Trees is the brainchild of Alice White, a resident who, in 1997, saw the need for people to offset development by planting native trees and keeping those they already had, healthy and flourishing. Over the years, Alice and her group of tree-hugging warriors has amassed a list of wins for South County’s North Port. Tree plantings at parks and schools has added a beautiful element to North Port’s title as “Playful City.” Hundreds of trees line Salford Boulevard, and eco-friendly workshops, school and library programs, organized hikes and kayak excursions, and popular tree festivals have kept the community engaged in People For Trees’ mission. They have created beautiful butterfly gardens in area parks, adopted several streets for cleanup, and introduced commemorative tree walks to the area. Some online groups joke that a couple of North Port’s larger commercial development projects must have been passed by commission members in the dead of night, while Alice was sleeping. But even with the tremendous development occurring in North Port, the community remains a little slice of green paradise, not yet fully paved.
This week, in honor of Arbor Day, there are actions you too can take to protect and preserve your dwindling open spaces. Thankfully, sending a greeting card is not part of this often-overlooked holiday, that would be counterintuitive. Instead, consider planting some of these Florida friendly shrubs and trees that can beautify and strengthen the health of your backyards. Plants like Milkweed and Tropical Sage will attract butterflies, while colorful options including Lantana and Firebush will add vibrant hues. Confederate Jasmine will combine beauty with a scent so sweet and pleasant that your guests will enjoy visiting and your family will always equate those beautiful smells with their favorite memories of home. All of these options are drought-friendly, along with being sturdy enough to withstand the grueling sun. For a full list of trees, shrubs, and plants that are great for Florida weather, please visit: www.peoplefortrees.com
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone….” With groups like People For Trees vying for the green interests of the community, North Port residents are fortunate. What other grassroots efforts are happening in the area to protect our trees? Feel free to comment below so we may share great innovation and unique ideas working to protect our paradise. Happy Arbor Day, everyone!
Photos: Arbor Day Greenway 127 courtesy of Alan on Flickr, commercial use allowed
Florida Trees 2 courtesy of Matthew Juzenas on Flickr, commercial use allowed
I’m over my head In a land up ahead, North Port, Fl, courtesy of Stacie DaPonte on Flickr, commercial use allowed