Longboat aims to declare war against Australian pine trees

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Hurricane Irma and its aftermath has ripened the Town of Longboat Key’s desire to eradicate the ever-unstable Australian pine from the island.

On Monday at the workshop, the commission will consider a push from Public Works Director Isaac Brownman to reinstate a program that will subsidize property owners up to $1,500 to remove Australian pine trees from their properties.

Brownman wrote in a memo that the trees present “potentially significant hazards to Longboat Key, especially in the event of a major storm.” He added that Australian pines possess large, very shallow and unique root systems, that if uprooted can cause substantial structural damage.

Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said one of his major concerns during the threat of Hurricane Irma was that the re-entry to Longboat Key would be hampered by the numerous Australian pines along John Ringling Boulevard should they topple from the north side of the road. That fear turned to reality and Sarasota City staff were tasked with the laborious job of clearing a series of once-towering trees that lay strewn across the entrance to St. Armands Circle.

The program Brownman wishes to reinstate was created in 2005 when the commission via resolution allowed a maximum of three incentives per year for qualifying applicants. These incentives to remove a tree ranged between $500 and $1,000. The program netted the removal of 102 trees and was formally dissolved in 2008.

Brownman writes that the current cost to remove an Australian pine ranges from $750 to $1,500 and suggests capping the incentives at three per year as was done in the past. He also recommends capping annually the maximum amount to be paid out at $60,000.

The criteria to receive the money is that it is only specific for the removal of Australian pines and the tree(s) must pose a threat to roadway access, power lines and underground water or sewer utilities.

If the commission wishes to move forward it will take a budget amendment to transfer funds out of the Commission Contingency Fund as well as a resolution to establish the program.

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3 Responses for “Longboat aims to declare war against Australian pine trees”

  1. who's on first says:

    The ABC’s of invasive species, namely Australian Pines, Brazilian Peppers and Cottonwoods all might benefit from a major clearance program now that the town is spending money again. After all, growth under Trump and Scott is remarkably strong, real estate values are up and with the Colony coming out of a long winters sleep things are looking up. Before our three year elected politicians come up with other ideas on where to spend this newfound tax wealth. we ought to go after not just the A trees, but the B trees as well (but make sure they grind the stumps on those Brazilian Peppers, or they’ll come back in spades.

  2. Peter O'Connor says:

    I must agree that even Australian Pines have their uses and their fans. Those of us who served in Vietnam, so long ago, might recall the heavy forestation, especially along the coasts. The French, it seems used these trees to stbilize the sandy soil. These same French seeded the countryside from aircraft. They simply cast the seedlings out of low-flying planes. This worked quite well.

  3. Bob Bunting says:

    Australian pine trees can be a problem but sometimes they are a benefit. As usual, good common sense is needed when looking at programs and policies that are wide brush although well intended. Case and point is Beer Can Island. The tip of Bear Can was covered with Australian pines for years. About 10 years or so ago, as indicated in Steve’s article, the town decided to cut those trees down although they did not threaten anyone. The result is severe erosion that continues today. Had the trees been left alone, the erosion we now experience and need to fix would have been less. As recent hurricane issues point out, we need mangroves and tree roots to hold the land together when it is under tidal stress. We should be encouraging and planting species that help build the dune system that protects us from surges. Instead of broad brush approaches, i.e. Australian pines should be cut down, perhaps we should consider the merits of cutting vs. non cutting given the specific instances.

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