Local groups work to create tree-planting public service announcements ahead of fall planting season

Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Ahead of National Arbor Day at the end of the month, local groups are working to educate the community on tree-planting and regrowing the natural tree canopy after Hurricane Michael.

Local experts said on Friday it’s an issue that affects everything from shade, to street flooding. Now, with shovels and video cameras, an important message is going out to the community.

“We need to plant trees and we need to show people how to do it properly,” said Biology Professor Linda Fitzhugh at Gulf Coast State College. “After Hurricane Michael, after losing all these trees, we see that there are so many areas that are flooded. So many neighborhoods are flooded and a lot of it is because we don’t have trees.”

Since the storm, through tree giveaways and planting initiatives, more trees are going into the ground, but according to Julie McConnell with the UF-IFAS Bay County Extension Office, they’re not all surviving. 

“They put it in the ground and they pile soil on top of that root ball,” McConnell explained. “The roots can’t get oxygen and eventually the tree dies.”

That’s why she’s working with Gulf Coast State College and the Florida Forest Service to make sure the community’s efforts aren’t in vain, by planting a tree on campus for a special reason on Friday, May 23rd. 

“We’re going to film while we do it so that we can create several short videos on how to select a tree, how to plant it properly, how to take care of it afterwards,” McConnell said.

“It’s just one of our goals to make sure we’re informing the landowners what they can do or if they’re already doing it, what they can do better,” said Jeffrey Johnson with the Florida Forest Service, who donated a tree for the occasion.

McConnell said the videos will be released ahead of the fall planting season, working to educate the community and grow the natural canopy one tree at a time.

“We want it to be in these nice short digestible bits that will keep people’s attention and only get to the point of what they want to know,” McConnell said.

She will be assisting with a ReTree PC Tree giveaway on May 1st at Oakland Terrace Park along with other master gardeners to help answer questions residents may have.

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