Two Tree Committee members explain their group's proposal.
There has been some controversy over the proposal to create an Ormond Beach tree board. The Arbor Day Foundation awards Tree City USA status if four requirements are met; one being the community must have a tree board. The ADF definition of tree board is flexible, but as written in its September/October 2019 newsletter, "It is always important that members have an interest in the welfare of community trees."
In the past year or two, more than one Ormond Beach city commissioner used our Tree City USA designation as a defense when confronted by citizens voicing concern about increased clear-cutting in our area for development. So it was particularly surprising to hear Commissioner Troy Kent say he is "so pleased that at this moment in time we don't have a tree board" at the City Commission meeting on Feb. 4. His statement contradicts the city's public information officer's assurance that Ormond Beach "continues to exceed the requirements to qualify as a Tree City USA." Supposedly, the Quality of Life Board functions as the Ormond Beach tree board, but seldom discusses trees and in the past has not required the presence of an arborist or landscaper.
The ordinance submitted by the Tree Committee is based on tree boards currently existing in other cities within our county. It is an effort to fulfill the ADF requirement and provide a starting point for discussion. It can be modified. Some citizens are concerned about being told what to plant in their yards, additional cost to the city or an extra layer of government. To reiterate: The proposed tree board would be an advisory committee of volunteers. Its primary focus would be on community tree issues, preserving the urban forest and promoting native plant restoration (which every member of the city council seems to enthusiastically support given their unanimous approval of the Garden Club's plan to transform a neglected park to 100% native species). Those that want "less government" are often fine with it, if it supports their interests.
Tree Board proposal was intended to be springboard for more discussion
After much reflecting on the reception we received during our presentation to the commission at the Feb. 4 meeting, as well as Mr. Kent's comments in the Observer, I feel a response is warranted. As one of the founders of the Civil Discourse group, I wholeheartedly believe in working with others to find solutions. Our grass roots, nonpolitical Tree Committee was formed on that same premise and we worked on answers to our concerns for a year, attending meetings, reading minutes, and meeting with commissioners and staff, as well as other groups. Our intent was not “more government” or becoming the “Tree Police," but rather using citizen volunteers to help the city address the critical issues of tree preservation, use of native plants and wetlands preservation to address resiliency issues. We wanted to work with the city in a positive, proactive way and felt a dedicated Tree Board could provide a bridge to citizen involvement. The presentation on Feb. 4 was a culmination of our year-long effort. Our proposal was intended as a framework and springboard to further discussion.
As we were walking into the meeting, my husband picked up an “Ormond Beach City Commission Meeting Guide.” Taken directly from the publication, I quote, “Public participation in meetings is encouraged by the City Commission.” Further it states, “Citizens are expected to conduct themselves in an orderly and courteous manner during the meeting.” Commissioners should be held to the same standard. Instead, we were treated to a scolding by Mr. Kent, unfairly compared to another group's project presented that same night, publicly chastised, and our statements misrepresented during the commissioner comments portion of the meeting. I may also point out that after being told for a year that Ormond Beach has a “Tree Board,” Mr. Kent specifically stated he was pleased there wasn't a tree board when lauding the Vadner Park project and intimating that we would not “let” them cut down the 2-3 trees specified in their application (They are nonnative trees so we would have no problem with that).
To be fair, some of the commissioners listened, and appeared to be open to further discussion. To them, we say thank you!
For the record, our Tree Committee wholeheartedly supports the proposed Vadner Park project. The project is based on the concepts of preservation of native old growth trees, planting of hardy resilient native plants and trees, and citizens working in partnership with the city. We applaud their efforts. In fact, members of that group would make excellent appointees to a Tree Board!