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Alachua County hosts Arbor Day event, planting trees along Tower Road

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department partnered with the University of Florida on Saturday to host a tree planting event in honor of Arbor Day.

UF students, faculty, and staff joined forces with other members of the Gainesville community to plant trees alongside Tower Road.

County Arborist Lacy Holtzworth said the tree planting program started six years ago. The group planted elm, longleaf pine, magnolia and live oak trees. The program’s goal is to plant the long lived, high value shade trees in unincorporated areas.

“We've planted about 1,300 trees,” she said. “It's not about quantity — our program's not — it's about putting trees where we need them.”

The program uses tree mitigation funds, which come from projects that take trees down without replanting.

“We only collect tree mitigation fees for certain kinds of trees and certain sizes of trees in certain locations, so it’s not like every tree that comes down off a development,” she said. “But when they're taking down a really significant heritage, live oak or magnolia, we ask them to replace it and when they can't replace it, or if they can't replace it, they put the replacement funds into an account. So we're using those funds to replant areas where we do want trees, like on sidewalks and at schools and parks and so forth.”

Terry Harpold, associate English professor at UF, is the director of the Imagining Climate Change initiative at UF. The initiative started in 2015 and seeks to unite humanists, scientists, artists and the general public to discuss planetary climate change. It sponsors guest lectures, symposia, film screenings, performances, readings, and more with the hope of incorporating the “entire range of human expression,” he said.

He said he and his students partner with Holtzworth to participate in tree planting events four times a semester.

“I think it's really crucial that young people, particularly these students, be given constructive work that they can do where they feel like they're making a difference,” he said.

He said planting a tree is making a commitment to the future.

“The trees we planted today will live 200, 300, maybe even 400 years,” he said. “So for three hours on a Saturday morning, a group of well intentioned, compassionate people are leaving a legacy that will extend eight, 10, 16 generations forward.”

Maximillian Pozzetta, fourth-year history student at UF, said he was inspired to participate in the tree-planting event because he’s a “big tree guy.”

Christopher Hernandez, second-year computer science student, said he learned about the event because he took one of Harpold’s classes.

“I just love coming out here and getting my hands dirty,” he said.

Hannah Norton, UF health sciences librarian, said she has participated in multiple tree planting events with her colleagues.

“I’m not very good at gardening,” she said. “So I like to get the advice from the arborist and learn how I'm supposed to be doing things and be outside with people and meet some new people.”

Harpold said this opportunity allows his students to leave the classroom and actively engage in a wider community.

“Yes, I do research, I teach all these things, but these little two or three hours on a Saturday morning, three, four times a semester, we throw away the sort of hierarchies of the classroom,” he said. “We could do this together, and it's a collective endeavor.”

Holtzworth said she doesn’t miss a chance to celebrate Arbor Day.

“Humanity needs trees,” she said. “I mean, we don't realize just how important the connection is, so it's celebrated all over the country.”

Lacy Holtzworth on Arbor Day's history and importance

Shailey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing