Cara Reed is responsible for the planting of about 145 live oak trees in Pinellas Park neighborhoods.
PINELLAS PARK – Cara M. Reed puts down more roots than most people.
Her goal to make local neighborhoods more beautiful has her branching out all over the city.
Reed, assistant director of Business & Neighborhood services, is responsible for the planting of about 145 live oak trees. Her future plans call for installing more oaks and other species over the next year.
“Canopy trees make neighborhoods look better,” Reed said. “In addition to esthetic value, the trees can save energy costs.”
Officially called the Neighborhood Tree Giveaway Program, Reed got the idea from other cities whose beautification programs were responsible for improving areas while at the same time increasing property values.
“Oak trees are just gorgeous,” Reed said. “They are beautiful to look at and provide shade during our hot summer months.”
The program was launched 18 months ago and has since grown to all city neighborhoods.
The trees cost property owners nothing, but they must take the responsibility of planting and maintaining them. The 8- to 10-foot-high saplings grow to maturity in about 15 years.
“There are rules, of course, but they are easy to abide by,” Reed said.
New owners must pick up, plant and maintain the saplings. One does not have to own the property, but must submit notarized written permission from the landlord.
Reed negotiated a fair price for the trees with Seminole Nurseries Inc., which is at 6230 102nd Ave.
“Despite the name, it is located in Pinellas Park,” Reed said. “We wanted a local business to participate in the program.”
The live oak is fast growing and once was used to build wooden sailing ships. It can grow to 50 feet high or more and spreads its Spanish moss-festooned branches in canopy fashion. They provide sweet and edible acorns.
“There are many residents who cannot afford to pay upwards of $200 for a tree,” Reed said. “We offer them free for neighborhood improvement.”
Reed, herself an allergy victim, points out that the live oak produces pollen about one month out of the year.
“That’s a small price to pay for their beauty,” she said.
Future plans call for the possible introduction of elms, magnolia and red maple trees into the program.
“We have 42 pending applications from residents who wish to participate in the program,” Reed said. “I would like to see the whole city covered with canopy trees.”