Tree Advisory Council to continue efforts to educate the public about over-pruning and ‘butchering’ of trees

Immediate past chairman presents annual report to County Commission

Before-and-after photos show improper pruning has taken place with this palm tree, the past STAC chair says. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Members of the Sarasota County Tree Advisory Council (STAC) will remain focused on “opportunities to increase tree plantings in Sarasota County” and efforts to educate the public about appropriate tree pruning, immediate past Chair Kevin Greene told the county commissioners this week.

Improper pruning of cabbage palms remains one significant concern of the advisory council members, Greene pointed out.

In a November 2015 presentation to the commission, he explained that the public tends to over-prune the trees, which harms the palms’ health. Branches that appear to be dead often are not, county staff has pointed out.

Yet, cabbage palms are not the only trees that suffer from shaping and other inappropriate actions, he pointed out on April 26 as he presented STAC’s annual report.

Greene showed the board members a series of slides to illustrate the council members’ concerns. “These are things that are seen throughout the county on our daily travels,” he explained.

In some cases, Greene provided before-and-after photos.

Chair Paul Caragiulo responded to one slide that Greene cited as an example of “tree butchering.” “Is it pruning?” Caragiulo asked.

The STAC presentation includes this photo of a tree past Chair Kevin Greene refers to as ‘butchered.’ Photo courtesy Sarasota County

“We use the term loosely,” Greene told him.

“Apparently, so did the person who did the pruning,” Caragiulo said.

Many of the slides, Greene noted, showed examples of actions from which trees never can recover.

When Commissioner Charles Hines asked about the county’s and STAC’s relationships with Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), Greene told him, “They’re cooperating. I firmly believe [FPL’s employees are] doing the best job they can” as they trim around power lines.

Greene pointed out, “They didn’t plant the trees [in the vicinity of those lines].

The company has to ensure the stability of its equipment, he continued. “I would say that [FPL employees are] doing a great job, doing what they can.”

In less than 8 minutes, Greene provided an overview of STAC’s activities between Nov. 12, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016. The 2012 county resolution that governs the advisory council calls for it to do the following, he said:

  • “To provide a conduit for citizen input to the [County Commission];
  • “To recommend individual street and neighborhood planting projects and priority of projects;
  • “To assist the County in updating and revising a consolidated tree list;
  • “To assist in the dissemination of public information;
  • “To review and recommend revisions to the Sarasota County Code of Ordinances relating to trees for consideration by the Board;
  • “To nominate new canopy roads for consideration by the Board;
  • “To make such other recommendations to the County as the Council may see fit consistent with the terms of this resolution; and
  • “To carry out other such duties as the Board may require.”

During the period covered by his report, Greene noted, STAC members “were able to put together bookmarks and library displays to focus on cabbage palm pruning,” mangroves and the benefits of trees.

Additionally, he said, they worked on the county’s Master Tree List, which will be available online — and interactive — after it has been completed.

Rachel Herman, manager of environmental planning, explained to The Sarasota News Leader that that list will identify all the various types of trees that may be planted in specific situations guided by the county’s Zoning Code. For example, she said, certain types are required in landscape buffers.

Shaping of trees, as in this example, damages their health, county staff says. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Master Tree List will be finalized in conjunction with the 18-months-long process to complete the Unified Development Code project, Kristen Hellman, a county landscape planner, told the News Leader.

The Unified Development Code will combine the county’s land development regulations and Zoning Code into one document that staff and a consultant promise will be much more user-friendly.

This year, Greene told the County Commission, STAC also is working with county staff on the UDC.

Further, the advisory council members will put “continued emphasis on education and outreach to residents,” as well as to professional landscaping firms, he added.

Greene also pointed out that STAC partners with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Office in Sarasota County and other county departments — such as Environmental Protection and Neighborhood Services — on initiatives, as appropriate.

He has been on the council about five years, he added. “It’s a great staff that you have here,” he told the board.