Free trees handed out in Brooksville

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BROOKSVILLE – Monday wasn’t only for U.S. presidents in Brooksville.

“I heard a rumor there’s free trees around here,” said Merlin Blyth, wandering beneath a veranda at Tom Varn Park with wife, Diana.
Hernando County Forester Justin Draft, far right, assists Diana and Merlin Blyth during a free tree giveaway Monday at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville. MATT REINIG/STAFF

Hernando County Forester, Justin Draft, and Pasco County Forester, Michael Edwards, arrived at 10 a.m. Monday with 500 trees from four different species, a stand-up poster on a table full of informational pamphlets and brochures, as well as plenty of forest management advice for interested visitors, Draft said.

The four tree species offered Monday for planting were white oak, pop ash, pond cypress, and crape myrtle trees.

“We wanted to give a variety of trees that grow tall, and those that don’t, and those with nice colors like the crape myrtle,” Draft said.

Two years ago Draft lead the charge for the Florida Forest Service’s tree giveaway in Brooksville, he said, but the turnout wasn’t as good as he wanted it to be.

“Maybe 30, 40 people,” he said, adding that construction at Tom Varn Park at the time might have deterred visitors. “But we’ve had a good turnout (Monday) so far.”

It wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet and the foresters had already seen 10 visitors.

Before 11 a.m. at least 30 visitors stopped in, many of them leaving with trees in hand, and the foresters were scheduled to keep the pace until 2 p.m.

Among the visitors was Richard Mazzuchelli, who said he recently cut down four large trees on a property he is renovating, and is now looking for new trees to plant and replace those removed.

“I saw the sign the other day, and I figured I’d drop by and see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a good thing that they’re promoting the trees.”

Mazzuchelli said he had the trees removed from the property because they posed a danger to the home, being as large and as close as they were.

“I might be interested in one of their oaks,” he said.

Diana Blyth said her and husband, Merlin, have six acres, and they’re all about planting trees.

“We didn’t know apple trees grew in Florida, so we’re giving those a try,” Diana Blyth said. “We just bought two of them.”

Draft said Florida Forest Service was hoping to have the tree giveaway on Florida’s Arbor Day, held the third Friday in January, which is different from the national Arbor Day in April.

But due to busy schedules, the department pushed it back to President’s Day, he said.

“We just want to encourage people to plant trees, and if they need forest management advice, they can just give me a call,” said Draft.

Draft can be reached at (352) 797-4130.

(352) 544-5271