The City of St. Augustine Gives Away Free Tree at Arbor Day Celebration

St. Augustine mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath, Commissioner Barbara Blonder, Commissioner Jim Springfield, Chair of the Tree Committee Fremont Latimer and the tree committee at the Arbor Day celebration 2023

Twine Park in Lincolnville got a little greener today, when local residents, plant lovers, college students, city workers, and city officials joined together to celebrate that St. Augustine had been designated a Tree City for the 40th consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation. 

As a part of the celebration, members of the St. Augustine's Street Tree Advisory Committee and City of St. Augustine officials helped plant a live oak tree in Twine Park with the help of city workers. 

City of St. Augustine workers finish off planting live oak tree in Twine Park
City of St. Augustine workers finish off planting the live oak tree in Twine Park 

"We are very happy to be celebrating 40 years. We're very excited about that, and we're very proud of the fact that we're a Tree City for 40 years," said St. Augustine mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline. "This is important to us every single year. It is one of my favorite commemorations. We celebrate it every Arbor Day, and we plant a new tree in a different part of the city. Many times, we have youth, or young people or classes, and today we had commissioner Blonder's ecology class join us."

St. Augustine vice mayor Roxanne Horvath, city commissioner Cynthia Garris, city commissioner and Flagler College professor Barbara Blonder, St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, city commissioner Jim Springfield and Blonder's Flagler College ecology class at the annual Arbor Day celebration.
St. Augustine vice mayor Roxanne Horvath, city commissioner Cynthia Garris, city commissioner and Flagler College professor Barbara Blonder, St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, city commissioner Jim Springfield and Blonder's Flagler College ecology class.

"We came here to celebrate trees with the city that values its trees so tremendously," said Flagler professor and city commissioner Barbara Blonder, who had brought her new Ecology class to the event. "The first topic that we discuss in ecology is biodiversity and the importance of maintaining biodiversity, and we focus on the producers, the trees, the plants that produce oxygen and provide us with food. So, because it was Arbor Day in the city today, and I am a city commissioner, I asked the students, if they would be interested in coming to celebrate trees. We spent some time talking about the importance of trees, the ecosystem services like flood reduction, habitat for wild animals, and so forth." 

Many of Blonder's ecology students brought home their very own trees. "We're here to represent our school and to show our support for the environment as well as our beautiful community," said Luke Sammartino, a coastal environmental science major at Flagler College.

St. Augustine Free Tree Sapling Giveaway at Arbor Day Celebration

After the ceremony, the City of St. Augustine gave away a tree sapling to everyone in attendance, and there was great excitement over the two chosen tree specimens, a flatwood plum and a persimmon, two native Florida tree species.

"We need trees, and they're taking them down, clear-cutting, all over the county and the city even, and I am very concerned about that, said long-time member of the tree committee Gina Burrell, who was excited to see the turnout, especially all the young people, who showed up. "It makes me feel good," Burrell said, about the strong support from the city officials at the event. "We've never had so many city commissioners show up, and I think most of the tree committee was here. And having the young people here, they are our future. I care about the environment, about global climate change, and I am concerned about what is happening to our earth."

St. Augustine's Poet Laureate Norma Sherry read her poem In Honor of Arbor Day at the ceremony: 


In Honor of Arbor Day 

Oh you beautiful oak with your roots dug deep 

and the willow that waves in the wind 

and the magnolia that grows blossoms of white 

 you are the trees of my youth 

the roots of my life

you are home to many creatures large and small

you are a place of mystical stories

and a place of security

you were home to Buddha when he reached


and Issac Newton epitomized

you were home to the 

Swiss Family Robinson 

you were my first treehouse and my swing that 

wrapped securely from your branches

You are the bark that we carved our initials and

professed love forevermore

you are our promise for tomorrow and our 

memories of yesterday

oh my beautiful tree

 strong flowing in the breeze with your majestic leaves

oh the stories you could tell

but yet you keep our secrets deep in the folds

of your bark

oh dear beautiful tree 

my secrets thus you keep 

you are my secreted friend 

I shall love you always 

my strong oak 

and my flowing Willow 

and my blossoming magnolia…. 

 ©️Norma Sherry Poet Laureate January 4, 2023

If you missed the sapling giveaway today, you can still get free trees from the City of St. Augustine's Tree Canopy Enhancement program. If you are outside of the city limit, you can get a free plant or tree at the West Augustine Nature Society's Earth Day clean-up event in April. 

If you are looking for an affordable way to add trees to your property, the Arbor Day Foundation has great deals on trees, including fruit trees, and if you join the Arbor Day Foundation you will also get 10 free trees, plus you will get a discount in their online tree nursery.

If you missed the event, you can watch a recap from the City of St. Augustine below.

*This piece was originally posted on the West Augustine News Connection on December 3, 2022.

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