City cutbacks make for free trees in Hot Springs

By Wayne Bryan Published May 15, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Brian Fisher, Hot Springs Parks and Trails Department landscape supervisor, stands by some of the many species of trees that will be given away Friday as part of the city’s tree giveaway.

HOT SPRINGS — If you are looking to invest in more shade for your Hot Springs yard, the city will be giving away trees on Friday.

More than 100 trees will be given to Spa City residents starting at 8 a.m. Friday at the Park Haven Community Garden, 655 Park Ave.

“There will be hardwood trees, like a variety of oaks, and some ginkgo trees,” said Brian Fisher, landscaping superintendent of the Hot Springs Department of Parks and Trails. “Most of the trees are around 5 feet high and 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.”

Jean Wallace said the trees have been in the greenhouses maintained by the parks department.

“Most of the trees, like the oaks, were purchased with block-grant funds, and the ginkgo trees were donated by a former city director who grew them from seed.”

The ginkgo may be the first to be taken. While grown all over the world, the trees are native to China and are known as “living fossils.” A unique species of tree unto itself, there are no tree relatives of the ginkgo, such as there are with the variety of oaks to be given out Friday. Fossils have been found of a recognizable form of the ginkgo tree dating back 270 million years.

Fisher said the tree giveaway is linked to the loss of the urban forestry position the city maintained for years. Wallace said the position ended late in 2009 or early in 2010.

“With the position vacated and not funded, the parks department doesn’t have the funds to maintain the trees,” Fisher said. “These trees will be adopted by city residents. Those who get the trees will sign a paper that they will take care of the trees. We want the people to feel real ownership of the trees.”

Wallace said she hopes the trees go to good homes.

“I hope they go fast to good people who want to restore the tree canopy of the city,” she said. “While you see many trees on the mountains and around the city, you would be surprised how many trees have been lost to storms, dry weather and development over the years.”

The trees would have been used to add shade to public rights of way such as downtown sidewalks, but Fisher said such a program lacks the funding to be maintained.

Fisher said only city residents can receive a free tree. Residents will need to have a valid driver’s license with a Hot Springs address, a water bill or some other documentation of city residence.

At the giveaway, there will be demonstrations of planting techniques and literature on caring for the trees.

The free trees will be given out with their roots wrapped in a burlap ball. Fish said anyone getting a tree will need to bring a truck or some other vehicle with room for the tree to be protected during transportation.

Meanwhile, the Hot Springs Department of Parks and Recreation did get an official name change on May 6 from the Hot Springs Board of Directors.

“We are now the Department of Parks and Trails,” Wallace said. “We will still maintain city parks, but the organized recreation programs are now under the Department of Sports Recreation. We will oversee the parks and trails with a focus on walkability through the city and connecting with other trail systems in the region.”

For more information about the tree giveaway, call (501) 262-1519.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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