by Dana Souza
Naples is graced with a magnificently diverse population of trees. Over 17,000 trees consisting of 120 different species of trees planted in parks, public spaces and along streets. These include majestic live oaks, tall and arching coconut palms, feathery royal poinciana trees, native gumbo limbo trees and huge banyan trees, just to name a few.
This splendid collection of trees greatly adds to the unique community character that makes Naples a livable and award-winning community. While Hurricane Irma is a distant memory for many Southwest Florida residents, the City of Naples continues the recovery efforts after losing nearly 2,000 trees to the September 2017 storm. Prior to Hurricane Irma, there were over 2,000 vacant tree planting sites in the City which means there is an opportunity to plant an additional 4,000 trees. Since the average cost to plant a tree is $1,200 this means nearly $5 million is needed to replant Naples beautiful urban forest.
While the Naples City Council has increased funding to plant trees to an amount of $500,000 for 2019, additional funding is needed if the tree lined streets of Naples are to return to their full glory. If this level of funding can be sustained, it would take over 10 years to replant Naples.
Without question, the aesthetic beauty of trees adds greatly to community value and Hurricane Irma’s wrath created significant holes in the City’s complexion. After witnessing the significant damage Naples urban forest sustained from Hurricane Irma, the Blair Foundation trustees developed The Blair Foundation Tree Challenge to help reforest Naples in a shorter period. The program provides a dollar-for dollar match of private donations, up to $500,000. This means the challenge to raise $500,000 in private donations is on!
The program which was formally announced in September 2018 has already raised $141,000 and has the potential to raise $1 million for tree plantings ($500,000 from private donations and $500,000 from the Blair Foundation) by December 2021 when the program will expire. The City of Naples has long been known as the “Green Jewel” of Southwest Florida. The City has also received the “Tree City USA” designation by the National Arbor Day
Foundation – for 21 years! Remember, trees also provide many benefits beyond sheer beauty. They provide clean air to breathe by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, they provide food and shelter for wildlife, they cool the environment through the shade provided and they add value to property, community and lives.
By donating the cost of a tree or multiple trees to the City of Naples, these tax-deductible gifts will leverage a dollar-for-dollar match from the Blair Foundation Tree Challenge. Donations will be used to plant trees within public spaces, along your neighborhood street, along main roadways or in City parks. City staff will work with residents to plant the right tree in the right place in accordance with the City’s Urban Forest Plan that is adopted by the City Council every year.
Please consider donating to the Blair Foundation Tree Challenge today and help reforest Naples for future generations. For additional information, please contact the Naples Community Services Department at 239.213.7120
or view information on the City’s website at https://www.naplesgov.com/parksrec/page/blairfoundation-
tree-challenge Note: The Blair Foundation was created in memory of long-time Naples residents and philanthropists, John and Dorothy Blair. The Blair family and the Blair Foundation have provided meaningful gifts to communities and organizations that serve to enhance the quality of life for residents of Southwest Florida.